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tv   New Day With Alisyn Camerota and John Berman  CNN  May 1, 2019 5:00am-6:00am PDT

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william barr? if mueller meant to send a message to the american people on obstruction did he fail because he was outmaneuvered? when will we hear from mueller himself? his testimony really seems guaranteed and vital because there are serious questions about whether the attorney general lied in testimony he has already given on the report. how will barr explain his selective quotes from the mueller report that seemed to twist the special counsel's intent. some democrats are already calling for impeachment of william barr. so we have a potentially explosive day ahead and our coverage begins with lauren fox live in capitol hill. she is in the hearing room, the room where it will all happen. lauren? >> reporter: that's right, john. in just a couple of hours bill barr will come before the senate judiciary committee and have to answer questions about how he handled the mueller report, specifically that reporting from the "washington post" as a new explosive element to all of this where democrats are going to be grilling him about why he did
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not disclose sooner that mueller wrote to him and basically said he didn't support the way that barr had written out the key findings. in that letter mueller wrote, quote, the summary letter the department sent to congress and released to the public late on the afternoon of march 24th did not fully capture the context, nature and substance this have office's work and conclusions. you can expect that democrats are already preparing their questions to he can to us on that letter from mueller, but we don't expect that bill barr will really address it in his opening statement. instead barr will say in an expected statement, quote, i determined that it was in the public interest for the -- to announce the investigation's bottom line conclusions. i did not believe that it was in the public interest to release additional portions of the report in a piecemeal fashion leading to public debate over incomplete information. my main focus was to release a public version of the report so that congress and the american people could read it for themselves and draw their own conclusions. this all coming in the senate
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judiciary committee as we are still waiting to see whether or not bill barr will appear before the house judiciary committee tomorrow. >> thank you very much for that preview. even technology is getting hotter, obviously, and melting down in some ways. let's bring in kaitlan collins, phillip mudd and elie honig a cnn legal analyst and former federal prosecutor. phil, you worked for robert mueller. the idea that he felt compelled to write this letter to his boss, bill barr, you say is stunning. what do you see in this letter? >> pretty simple, i see the psychology of robert mueller in a way that i didn't anticipate. look, when i used to travel with him domestically, the fbi offices and sometimes to fbi personnel overseas, sometimes he would get a question from an fbi officer, what would you tell a kid to get into your position, director? mueller would always say the same thing, the most important thing in his history, personal
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history, was being a u.s. marine, duty, honor, country. part of duty i saw in maybe 2,000 meetings with the guy is you stay in your lane. the department of justice does prosecutions, the congress does the law, the media does the media, the white house does politics. mueller in this letter, in a letter he knows i'm sure is going to leak, it's not just a phone call, is about two lanes over on the highway. the only way to interpret that for a guy who never got out of his lane is he is so irritated not only, remember, there is a keyword in that letter, not only by the surrounding information, the sort of environment that barr created, but by that one word, substance. that means that barr got the facts wrong. this is remarkable for mueller, alisyn. >> phil, can i just ask you do you think mueller got played here? do you think that he misinterpreted perhaps barr's intentions over the last few months? >> no, i have never seen mueller played and i don't think he got played. the most significant testimony coming up is not today, it's when mueller gets in front of a committee which i believe will
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be a public hearing and he gets a couple questions. let me give you one. director mueller, did the substance of your recommendations and comments in that report change because the person you were investigating with as a resident of the oval office? and i can't wait to hear what mueller said. this game isn't over. mueller is playing a long game. don't ever underestimate that guy. >> you think he will be willing to go and testify? you don't think that he would resist that request from congress? >> no, because, remember, duty, honor, country. this is the most significant political investigation in america since the early '70s going before the oversight committee. forget about trump and the investigation, this is the responsibility of a department of justice official to go talk. >> kaitlan, you say look at the timing of all of this. you think it is crucial. >> it is, because look at when mueller sent this letter to the justice department disputing the way that bill barr had portrayed this conclusion, this report that he had produced for two years now. that was four days after bill barr, the attorney general, sent
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his key findings to congress, released them publicly. that was four days after. now we are over a month after that and now this letter is just coming out hours before bill barr is going to testify before lawmakers on capitol hill. there was already going to be a lot of scrutiny on the attorney general as he was testifying and now it's an intense fresh new level of scrutiny. this seems to be coming from weeks of what we've seen as this conflict emerging between the special counsel and the attorney general. people who we should note before this were close friends, their wives are close friends, they've been to bible study together, even bill barr testified about the fact that they were close friends before this. so this is very unusual and, of course, coming from special counsel who has been so tight lipped throughout this entire investigation, that makes it even more stunning that he sent this letter to the justice department. >> it does feel as though that friendship could be frayed this morning. the department of justice gave the "washington post" a statement about all of this. elie, it is fascinating to hear this because they are still
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spinning it, not accurately. now that we know about the letter and the phone call between barr and mueller. here is what the spokesperson for the doj says in this letter, in a cordial and professional conversation the special counsel emphasized that nothing in the attorney general's march 24th letter was inaccurate or misleading. that's hard to believe, elie. that is hard to believe. the whole point of the letter from mueller to barr is that it was misleading, the findings, in the four-page cheat sheet that bill barr put out. >> it's hard to believe and also hard to square with the actual letter that robert mueller wrote when he said that the content, nature and the substance of the findings and conclusions were inaccurate. today is going to be really interesting because this is going to be bill barr's first fair fight because up until now everything that bill barr has said publicly has come in the context of he has seen the report but basically nobody else has. now we've all seen the report and i think a lot of us had a lot of questions raised about
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how accurate, how fair bill barr has been in summarizing it and then we just learned last night that the guy who wrote the report that's been kept away from us feels the same way. today bill barr is going to have nowhere to hide and he's going to get called to task for some of his dis portions and misleading characterizations. >> you have three questions that you think you would put to barr if you were allowed to ask questions. i would note you are not because you are not a senator. were you a senator, what would you ask? >> senators are free to borrow these. first of all, i'd focus on obstruction of justice. i would ask william barr you concluded just in sort of summary fashion no obstruction, period. how do you square that with the 11 separate instances of what robert mueller deemed, quote, potentially obstructive acts. the firing of comey, the attempt to fire mueller, the a text to get mcgahn to lie about it, so on. i think this is going to be a tough one. i was a prosecutor for 14 years, i have indicted, tried and convicted people on a fraction of the evidence that robert mueller lays out.
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so i want to hear how bill barr defends that. number two, i would move on to bill barr's infamous interception. where did you get the idea that it was up to you, how do you conclude that robert mueller decided to punt to you, leaves it to the attorney general to decide obstruction. where is that in the report? it's nowhere in the report. where is that in the special counsel guidelines? it's not in there. how is that consistent with the idea of a special counsel. the attorney general who reports the president and also of course in the report mueller over and over refers to congress and its impeachment powers specifically with respect to obstruction. and then third let's not forget about russia conspiracy. sure, mueller concluded that there was no federal crime chargeable based on the facts, but that doesn't mean everything is all roses and sunshine, there is still really serious national security issues there and so i would ask bill barr first of all do you agree with mueller's conclusion that russia committed a series of crimes here and that
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the trump campaign in 2016 expected to benefit from those crimes? based on that do you have the backbone to say that the trump campaign acted improperly and acted in a way that endangered national security? >> phil, i think that the overarching -- one overarching question here is that our attorney general, the top law enforcement officer of the land, has misrepresented evidence of a crime and that's what robert mueller is saying. robert mueller laid out those 11 portions in his report where he thinks that something improper was done, there was evidence of improper behavior from people around -- from the president and people around him of obstruction. bill bar buried that. >> he buried it in a way that anybody in washington who has been around knew wouldn't work. he comes out with language in his letter that doesn't match mueller's report. mueller let the president especially on the russia piece
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off the hook. if you know mueller's report is going to come out why use different language in your letter? the second thing, "the new york times" reports on the letter that mueller wrote to barr, it reports on that right before barr is going before testimony. why misrepresent what you know the special counsel's office is saying, that is, that they're uncomfortable with your summary. you know that's going to haek. why wouldn't you just leak it first. there is some washington pieces of this, alisyn, that make barr look different than what we thought on day one which was a seasoned professional. >> kaitlan, i can see you shaking your head. >> what we've seen in the last several weeks is questions about how bill barr represented this report and whether or not they were accurate before the report had been released in its full and whether or not he shaped the public perception beforehand. the white house and the president's allies were pushing back on this by saying, really? you don't think that if bill barr was misrepresenting the report that bob mueller wouldn't have said anything or that he wouldn't have come out? first we got the reports that
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members of mueller's team were unhappy with the way he portrayed it and now we learned that mueller himself sent bill barr this letter complaining essentially about what had been portrayed and how the key findings had been explained to the media and to the general public. so that kind of shoots that down. but white house officials feel exasperated by this latest effort because they feel like this report is simply never going to go away. >> i suppose they can thank william barr for that if he continues to spin what is actually in it. kaitlan collins, phil mudd, elie hoe anything, thank you very much. it will be fascinating to see the questions asked including by some presidential candidates today. >> and the answers he gives and whether or not they can trust him after the last time when he gave answers that they think now were deceptive. >> it is a crucial morning in venezuela. the u.s.-backed opposition leader says the military is deserting president nicolas maduro, but maduro says he is still in charge. how will the u.s. respond?
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this and even this.hark, i deep clean messes like this. but i don't have to clean this, because the self-cleaning brush roll removes hair, while i clean. - [announcer] shark, the vacuum that deep cleans, now cleans itself. the face of growing protests claiming what he calls a coup attempt against him has failed. maduro is also pushing back
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against the united states over claims by secretary of state mike pompeo that maduro was preparing to flee the country for cuba yesterday, but was talked out of it by russia. joining us now to give us the very latest information, the president's national security adviser, ambassador john bolton. ambassador, thank you for being with us this morning. at 8:16 a.m., what's the situation? it's been to tumultuous over the last 24 hours, what is your understanding of the current situation in venezuela? >> well, i think what we're expecting to happen today are the long planned nationwide demonstrations by the opposition against the maduro regime. we don't know what affect yesterday's violence by the government will have, but certainly these demonstrations have been planned for some time. we think the overwhelming majority of the venezuelan population oppose maduro, oppose the cubans, oppose the russians, hopefully we will see some of that today. in terms of the government itself, i think they are in real trouble. i think we have exposed
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yesterday that very senior members of the maduro regime were prepared to deal with the opposition and get him out of power. how they're going to live with each other now is very interesting. maduro, pedestrian green know, like scorpions in a bottle, i don't think they can trust each other. >> so that last point and this is so interesting, it does seem perhaps things didn't go as you expected them to because you just brought up the defense minister and you have said that in conversations with u.s. officials he indicated that he would flip, that he would side with juan guaido. that didn't happen yesterday, he came out and publicly voiced support for the venezuelan leader. so what went wrong there? >> let me say these are conversations with the opposition leaders and i'm sure that some day the documents that pedrino, more in. o were prepared to sign with the opposition i bet they will come out in public some day, too. look, there is a lot of mistrust inside venezuela between the opposition and maduro regime.
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officials after 20 years of a dictatorship that's not surprising. let's be candid as well, many people in the regime have enormous financial resources they have accumulated over the years, they are reluctant to see that go. when you have government begin to fragment in most circumstances you would say it was only a matter of time before it collapsed. here is where the key difference comes in, the presence of 20 to 25,000 cuban security forces, just to give you one example, maduro yesterday didn't come out in public until the end of the day, he was, we believe, near caracas which is, among other things, a military prison, it's also the headquarters of the cuban command in venezuela. he was with cubans because he doubted the loyalty of many of his own forces. >> in your administration the trump administration has also made the claim that russia is very much involved in propping up the maduro regime. secretary of state mike pompeo told my colleague wolf blitzer
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yesterday that there was a plane waiting to take maduro to cuba will you the russians talked him out of it. what is the russian role here? >> the russians like nothing better than putting a thumb in our eye, they're using the cubans as surrogates. they'd love to get effective control of a country in this hemisphere. it's not ideological, it's just good old fashioned power politics. that's why we have the hon row doctrine which we're dusting off in this administration, why the president indicated last night that the cubans better think long and hard about what their role is. >> what has the president said to vladimir putin on this subject? >> we've made it clear to the russians in a lot of conversations and a lot of different levels, some of which are going to continue today, why we think this behavior is unacceptable to us. those conversations with going to go on, but we are not going to limit ourselves to conversations, we are taking steps, we're putting more pressure on the maduro regime. the effect of the economic sanctions already imposed are drying up revenues to maduro, he won't be able to pay the service
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members, he won't be able to put gas in their jeeps. this is having a profound effect and it's a cumulative effect over time. >> has the president specifically spoken to vladimir putin about venezuela? >> i don't want to get into the specifics of the president's conversations -- >> but isn't it important, though? this is such a big issue for you, it's such a big issue for the administration, it's such a big issue for america and south america. if this is a priority, doesn't it matter whether or not the president has addressed it directly? >> i think the president is addressing it directly all the time. you read his tweets, i'm quite sure he talked in a tweet last night about a possible embargo to cuba, we have made it very clear to the russians, there is no misunderstanding in moscow that i am very clear. >> i understand the president does intend to speak to vladimir putin today, is that correct? >> look, i said before i'm not going to get into the specifics to that. i think secretary pompeo will be addressing his counterpart.
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we have had a lot of conversations with the russians, that's for sure. >> because i'm reading a transcript of an interview you just did on fox news. >> if you want to ask me about russian collusion -- >> no, i don't. not even a little. >> let's talk about venezuela. >> i absolutely want to. i just want to understand what the president has done -- because russia clearly played a role. mike pompeo was talking about it yesterday and you were mentioning the cuba relationship. i just want to know what diplomatic pressure the president will exert. i understand you said moments ago there is a call scheduled between president trump and vladimir putin. >> i said there was a call scheduled between secretary pompeo and his counterpart. you can look at your transcript. >> okay. i will go ahead and look at that transcript again. the part i'm looking at right now it says ambassador john bolt ton told fox and friends that president trump will call vladimir putin today. we will take another look at that. as you said, that's only one of the issues here. what's the status -- >> that doesn't sound like a
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transcript to me, it sounded like a report. >> this is not -- you're missing the overall point here. i'm not trying to pick a fight on rugs ssia. >> the one who is missing the point is you. >> i think one of the most dramatic moments yesterday was seeing leopoldo lopez in public in the mornings. i found that surprising and unexpected. he had been released by his house confinement. he went to the chilean embassy and now to the spanish embassy. what's his status tonight? >> look, the fact is that all of the leaders of the opposition are in danger because of the authoritarian maduro government and they have taken steps really over the last three months to protect themselves in various ways, leopoldo lopez was out of house arrest for the first time in a long time yesterday and he was understandably concerned about what the maduro regime might do. we don't get into discussions
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about where they are or what they're up to. we will see what happens today. >> i want to play something that mike pompeo did say just a short time ago. this is a question you are asked regularly, it has to do with military intervention, you've said that all options remain on the table. let me play you the exact language. >> the president has been crystal clear and incredibly consistent. military action is possible, if that's what's required, that's what the united states will do. we would prefer a peaceful transition of government there where maduro leaves and a new election is held, but the president has made clear in the event that there comes a moment and we will all have to make decisions about when that moment is and the president will ultimately have to make that decision, he's prepared to do that if that's what's required. >> the language the secretary used is if that is what is required. broadly speaking, what would require u.s. military action? >> well, first, i agree with everything mike just said. i think the president has been
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crystal clear and it's one element of a successful strategy is that you don't necessarily telegraph to your potential opposition what you're going to do or when you're going to do it. we have said repeatedly as well as mike said we want a peaceful transition of power, the russians could assist that is correct the cubans could assist it by returning to cuba. we're going to continue to work on that basis, but we're having effectively a special meeting of national security counsel principals later today and i'm sure we will be talking about a lot of steps. >> very quickly, two last questions. do you expect that maduro will be in power at the end of today? >> you know, i don't know how one can predict that. i think as in the case of many authoritarian regimes what looks like a pretty imposing structure sometimes one kick at the door and the whole rotten edifice falls down. >> i don't want this to be a piece of contention here. i'm reading you the transcript of the fox interview.
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brian kilmeade said to you if you want to back off the russians you have to call the russians as the secretary of state called his counterpart lavrov. has president called vladimir putin? if so, what was the call like? then you apparently said the call is scheduled for today. >> a call between pompeo and his counterpart. the call has not been made as i understand it. >> great. again, that was what the confusion was there, ambassador. i just wanted people to know because reading the transcript and looking at that exact question and answer it could leave the impression you were saying the president would speak to vladimir putin. i just wanted you to be aware of why i was asking and our viewers as well. you do not know of a specific call coming up between the two leaders? >> that's correct. >> thank you. ambassador john bolton, we do appreciate you coming on and giving clarity to that tumultuous situation in venezuela. >> always wonderful. did attorney general bill barr lie to congress when he went before them last month? some democrats believe yes and they are calling for barr's removal. the chairman of the house
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okay. in less than two hours attorney
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general william barr is set to testify before the senate judiciary committee. overnight there was a big development, we learned that special counsel robert mueller sent a letter to barr expressing frustrations that barr's four-page summary did not fully capture the context, nature or substance of mueller's conclusions. here to react to all of this we have democratic congressman adam schiff, the chairman of the house intelligence committee. good morning, congressman. >> good morning. >> how does the fact that we now know that this letter exists and a phone call happened between robert mueller and bill barr change what we will see on capitol hill today and tomorrow? >> well, i think it changes it a lot because we now have, you know, very direct confirmation that bill barr the attorney general of the united states, willingly misled the congress. he was asked very directly by my colleague representative christa florida are you aware of misgivings that the special counsel's team reportedly has about your summary and barr's answer was unequivocal no.
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bafr is a smart guy, he knows what he's doing, what he's saying and he knew this was false. this would be bad enough if it were an ordinary citizen, for an ordinary citizen we might consider whether that's perjury but it's worse when it comes from the attorney general of the united states because the public cannot have confidence in what he says, we cannot have confidence in how he administers justice and i think that's going to be very much a subject of today's hearing. >> so the fact that you think that he lied to congress on april 9th, how can you trust what he says today? >> well, you can't. you can't. and this is why it's going to be so importanter to hear directly from bob mueller. he needs to come into the congress without delay because i think what barr is still doing is he is still out there delaying mueller, delaying mueller's own words so that he can put forward his own false narrative. there was no reason and now we know mueller objected to this, there was no reason for barr to put out his own summary to begin with when mueller had written his own summaries.
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the fact that, you know, the justice department now tries to justify that by saying we didn't want to release the report piecemeal, they could have put out mueller's own summary first and foremost, barr didn't need to do that to set his own false narrative for the president. >> about robert mueller coming to testify, you wrote a letter requesting that he appear before your committee last month. have you heard from him? >> we have been in discussions with the justice department, they frankly have been delaying making mueller available to our committee, but we fully expect he is going to come and testify. >> why? why are you confident that he can testify if the department of justice doesn't want him to? >> well, first of all, we can subpoena him and compel him to testify. second, even barr recognizes it's going to be in supportable for the department to try to oppose his testimony. it's going to happen, it's just a question of how long can they delay it, how long can they
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allow barr ease own interpretation of events to sink into the public before we get to hear from the man who did the investigation, but we are pressing and we are going to demand he comes in and we fully expect that he will. >> isn't robert mueller now a private citizen? can he just decide himself that he's going to come in? >> he can decide himself that he wants to come in. i do think that because he is an institutionalist he's likely to come in in coordination with the justice department, he's likely to have a justice department lawyer sitting behind him telling him what questions he can and cannot answer, and unless the department continues to misrepresent his work or asks him to somehow misrepresent it, i don't think you are going to see him at odds with the department publicly, and it was quite extraordinary that we have seen this as much in the letter already, the fact that he would put his misgivings into writing to his superior in the department was a pretty dramatic step by someone that has the
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kind of ven operation for the department that bob mueller does. >> the fact that william barr, the attorney general, the top law enforcement officer of the land you believe lied when he spoke to congress and robert mueller believes misrepresented, mischaracterized the findings in which robert mueller spelled out evidence of wrongdoing, how will he continue on with his job as attorney general? >> well, look, you know, i was one of those making the case he should have never been confirmed and certainly not confirmed unless he committed to recusing himself from an investigation in which he had an obvious bias. now we see that bias playing out time and time again, so he should have never been given the job under these circumstances. now, you know, i think in the interest of the department he should step down, but i have no expectation that he will. what we are seeing, i think, is that anyone that gets close to donald trump becomes tainted by
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that experience and the fundamental conundrum is how do you ethically serve a deeply unethical president? as we are seeing with bill barr and i think as we saw with rod rosenstein, you can't. >> if you think that bill barr cannot legitimately serve as attorney general and you don't believe he would step down voluntarily, obviously he disagrees with your assessment, can congress do anything? >> well, i'm not sure what remedy there is. we could certainly try to remove him from office, that would face the same difficulty and obstacle as removing the president through an impeachment proceeding. look, we are going to consider all of the options here. this is bigger than bill barr. this is a problem now of a president who there is a strong case to be made has violated the law with innumerable acts of obstruction of justice, has potentially violated the law in terms of a campaign fraud scheme
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and we are engaged in a debate within our caucus about what's the right remedy for this. this just i think adds to that. we also have the problem of the administration obstructing the legitimate congressional oversight which i think only adds to the desire to, you know, take an important step to hold this president accountable. >> look, i mean, as you know some of your colleagues have called for attorney general bill barr to be impeached. so your response is that that's too politically fraught? >> no, you know, listen, i think we're going to have to consider all of the remedies that we have in terms of an attorney general who can't be trusted to level with the american people, a president who can't be trusted to level with the american people and who obstructed the justice department and now is obstructing congress. we're going to and we are having that conversation about whether impeachment is warranted or whether we can conduct the same oversight through a
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nonimpeachment process through our ordinary oversight process and that may lead us to impeachment down the road, but i think the fact now that the attorney general has compromised himself in this way only raises the stakes. >> congressman adam schiff, we will be watching very closely what happens on capitol hill today and tomorrow. thank you very much for coming in with your viewpoint on all of this. >> thank you. >> these questions will be fascinating given the news that developed overnight, but here is a question, should lawmakers really be surprised by what william barr has done and how he handled this? we're going to hear much more about the attorney general next. - [woman] with my shark, i deep clean messes like this. this and even this. but i don't have to clean this, because the self-cleaning brush roll removes hair, while i clean.
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in just about an hour attorney general william barr testifies before the senate judiciary committee, his testimony is happening in the wake of revelations that robert mueller objected to barr's early spin of the russia investigation. our gloria bore she are has a look at the controversies that have surrounded barr since he became attorney general. >> i want to wish our new attorney general freight luck and speed and enjoy your life. bill, good luck. a tremendous reputation. >> reporter: bill barr came to the trump administration with a long resumé, dating back to the george h.w. bush administration. >> he was deputy attorney general and he was attorney general. he has had quite a government career in addition to having been partner of a substantial law firm. >> reporter: and now a political lightning rod, largely because of the way he handled the release of the mueller report, in a way that pleased the president and angered democrats. was he putting his thumb on the
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scale for the american public? >> he was putting his fist on the scale for the american public. it was a lot more than a thumb. >> reporter: and when he said this -- >> i think that spying did occur. >> reporter: -- he made the president very happy. >> i think what he said was absolutely true. there was absolutely spying into my campaign. >> reporter: now barr, a republican with establishment credentials, faces congress at the center of a political firestorm. it started with his decision to summarize the special counsel's 488-page report in a four-page letter that even some on mueller's team downplayed and mischaracterized their damaging findings about the president. >> he wrote up a spin letter. he then went before congress and spun the spin letter. he then did a press conference where he used a nonlegal phrase, noncollusion, as many times as he could without being comical
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in a short period of time. >> there was no evidence of the trump campaign collusion, no collusion. no collusion. >> reporter: barr also cleared the president of obstruction, even though the special counsel made no decision. >> i don't think he should have participated in the decision on obstruction. and to have substituted his legal judgment for bob mueller about the appropriate legal theory, i believe, was a significant misjudgment on his part and i don't think it reflected well on the department. >> reporter: did you get that sense from barr, he wished mueller had made a decision? >> sure. and so the only person left who could make a decision is the attorney general and he did. >> reporter: what if barr had just decided not to do anything. >> and sort of leave it out there? >> reporter: uh-huh. impossible? >> not impossible. irresponsible. >> reporter: and then explained it in a press conference before anyone had read the mueller report. >> the president was frustrated and angered by his sincere belief that the investigation
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was undermining his presidency. >> reporter: could that be interpreted as ex excusing the president's bad behavior? >> i don't think it should be interpreted that way because i don't think he was -- he was trying to excuse the president's behavior, bad or otherwise, i think he was simply trying to explain the basis for a decision he as a prosecutor was reaching. >> he didn't explain a decision, he went out there justifying reckless behavior by the president. he wasn't serving as attorney general, he was serving as the president's guidance counselor. >> reporter: but barr's decision not to prosecute wasn't a complete surprise. he had already made his views known in an unsolicited 19-page memo sent to the justice department in june of 2018, saying, among other things, that the theory of the obstruction investigation against the president was fatally misconceived. >> is this something people do all the time. >> do you mean former government
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officials who propose long legal memoranda and bring them to the government on pending issues and ask officials then in power to look at them? >> reporter: yes, that's what i mean. >> no, that is not common practice. i think it's a reflection, again, with the passion at which he views that issue. it's unusual. >> reporter: do you think it was an audition for a job? >> definitely not. we talked about the memo at the time. i mean, the idea of being attorney general or taking any job with the administration was the farthest thing from his mind. >> reporter: really? >> yes. >> he didn't get this job by accident. he got this job because he promised in advance essentially that he wouldn't find the president guilty of obstruction and so he did exactly what he said he was going to do. >> reporter: back in a 1998 interview unearthed by cnn's k file, barr was more sympathetic to the independent counsel's plight, complaining that attorney general janet reno wasn't doing enough to protect
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ken starr from hatchet jobs and ad hominum attacks. yet he has remained silent as the president continues to lob grenades almost daily at the mueller team. >> we just went through the mueller witch-hunt where you had really 18 angry democrats that hate president trump. >> reporter: barr's loyalties are bound to be tested once again as the president says he will not comply with house democratic subpoenas. >> we're fighting all the subpoenas. look, these aren't like impartial people. >> reporter: and he could well have barr on his side. in 1989 in another memo barr warned against what he called congressional incursions against the office of the presidency. >> i think bill weighs view is a constitutional one, it's grounded in the separation of powers and if one of the branches oversteps its bounds he will call that branch on it. >> it would be really
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disappointing if he enabled the president to pursue a theory like the one the president has articulated, which is that because the house that is asking for this information is in the hands of the other political party, he is not going to permit anybody to testify. that is a lawless position. it's one thing for -- >> reporter: lawless? >> lawless. it's utterly law lls. >> reporter: and a matter ultimately that another branch of government, the courts, could decide. and so is this all about pleasing the boss for barr or adhering to his own view of a strong executive? luckily for barr, those two things coincide. alisyn? >> gloria, we have many more questions for you and much mosh to talk about so stick around if you would, you can help us figure out how barr will handle today's hearing. >> sure. . meet sergio. and his daughter, maria. sergio's coffee tastes spectacular. because costa rica is spectacular. so we support farmers who use natural compost. to help keep the soil healthy. and the coffee delicious. for future generations. all for a smoother tasting cup.
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do you know of any frustrations on mueller's team? is there a letter of some kind where they're expressing frustrations with how you characterized the findings and he said, no, i don't. >> exactly. >> how is this going to work today when he encounters these lawmakers again? >> i think they're going to ask him some very direct questions about his conversations with the special counsel because a lot of them the democrats share the special counsel's frustrations when they read the entire mueller report and when they saw what barr had produced. they are also upset, of course, that barr actually came to a conclusion on obstruction. you see in his opening statement and in the piece i was doing, you know, that like-minded former attorneys general were saying, you know, look, he had no choice but to come to a conclusion because mueller did not and he was upset that mueller had not come to a conclusion, so he felt he had to do it. i think we'd like to know what mueller felt about that.
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why did mueller do it that way and why did the attorney general feel that he had to go further than mueller and not leave it up to congress? >> i think all of a sudden we need to look at the hearing today within the framing of what will mueller say about what barr says today? because i think robert mueller is going before congress, perhaps soon, in some capacity and he will be asked very directly and william barr has to know that going in. gloria, amy klobuchar, cory booker, kamala harris all senators on the judiciary committee running for president. >> i heard that. >> how are they going to handle today? >> i think they're going to be on attack mode with barr. i think this he would have anyway, by the way, to be honest. i think these are people who don't like the fact that barr decided on obstruction and they also believe that he mischaracterized the report having read the report and seen those ten instances of obstruction. i think that they believe that
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barr took it a step further than he should have. i think the real question here sort of the philosophical question is that barr is so devoted to this notion of executive power, he believes in that more than anything else and believes that you cannot indict a sitting president, et cetera, et cetera, and the question is whether his devotion to that legal theory which is long standing actually caused him to not take a look at this facts here as closely as he should have and come to a different conclusion. i think that that's what they're going to -- that's what they're going to ask him about. >> i don't know if his belief in executive power was quite as ardent when bill clinton was president. >> that's right. >> your profile just spells out, i think, that people should have seen him as more of an unapologetic partisan before this moment. >> right. >> because he was so supportive of ken starr's work, more so than he is of his friend robert
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mueller's. >> and he felt that ken starr had been so badly treated. as we point out he didn't say anything about the president tweeting about mueller every day. barr is a conservative, he made it very clear that while he interprets the law and serves the government, he also serves the president because he says the job is a policy job. we shouldn't forget that. he has supported the president on the question of national emergency, for example, invoking a national emergency over the wall. so he is conservative, he comes from a conservative background, but it is establishment republican, so he and donald trump are kind of an odd couple, but they do agree in a strong executive and i believe that's one of the reasons trump picked him and that memo that he wrote, that unsolicited memo back in june of 2018. >> can't hurt. >> not at all. >> great to have you with us. we know you will be a big part of the next several hours a
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potentially explosive day on capitol hill. william barr scheduled to testify about one hour from now in this room, you are looking at live. >> that very room. >> that very room. he will be sitting in one of those chairs, the one on the floor. cnn's special live coverage picks up with jake tapper and wolf blitzer right after this. don't just dream about your next vacation.
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good morning and welcome to cnn special live coverage of william barr, the attorney general of the united states under oath before the senate judiciary committee. i'm wolf blitzer in washington. it's barr's first congressional appearance since he released most of the mueller report and overnight the tensions, the suspici suspicions, the resentments that already surrounded barr's handling of the special counsel probe and conclusions, they exploded. cnn has confirmed that mueller himself was displeased


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