tv CNN Tonight With Don Lemon CNN May 30, 2019 12:00am-1:00am PDT
this is "cnn tonight." i'm don lemon. robert mueller setting the record straight. after two years of silence the special counsel finally speaking out today about the russia investigation. and stating clearly for everyone to hear that he didn't clear president trump of a crime. >> if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime we would have said so we
did not make a determination as to whether the president did admit a crime. >> saying his hands were tied. due to the department of justice regulations. >> under long standing department policy, a present president cannot be charged with a federal crime. while he is in office. that is unconstitutional. charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider. >> that comment directly contradicts what attorney general said under oath earlier this month. they claim the guidelines weren't a factor in the decision. the pressure for impeachment is now ramping up. after mueller seemed to push the issue of obstruction to congress. >> the constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system. to formally accuse a sitting president of wrong doing. >> mueller made it clear, he has
no interest in speaking with congress. he says his 448 page report is his testimony. as for trumps favorite line claiming the russian investigation was a witch hunt and hoax. mueller laid out the evidence showing russia did influence the 2016 election to help trump and hurt clinton. >> russian intelligence officers who were part of the russian military launched a attack on the political system. the releases were designed and timed to interfere with the election. and to damage a presidential candidate. that allegation deserves the attention of every american. >> yes, it does deserve the attention. why is the president of the united states still in denial. here to discuss, the author of the case for impeachment. rick wilson. he's the author of everything trump touches dies. gentlemen, good evening.
douglas, i'll start with you. mueller was clear. the president didn't commit a crime he would have said so. and the constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to accuse a sitting president of wrong doing. is he telling congress to open impeachment proceedings? >> if he's pointing toward the door and telling them to go through in my mind. one of the great founding founders of the america james madison talked about constitution education. that for democracy to work we have to be aware of checks and balances, what's in the institution. today mueller getting to see him and hear his voice was starting opening with the public. that's post mueller report saying we the public needs to be part of this, congress is the people's house. and that impeachment is a very real option. he was cryptic about it. he was under stated about it. i think it's a historic day.
the movement for impeachment is gained steam. >> yeah. that said, rick i'll bring you in. before the comments today there was a -- should democrats go for it or is it too politically risky? >> i have argued they need to take their time. impeachment is a process not a thing. they need to move towards it with a strategy. and make sure they're bringing the american people along with them in the process and building the case before you get to impeachment. there are investigatory benefits and accountable benefits. that hold people to account. bring them on the deck and get testimony. and you build the atmosphere where if you reach impeachment and today mueller put the ball firmly in their court and said over to you, nancy. if you do reach that point, you're ready to go. you have it built up and the case made. not only in the court of public
opinion but in the political space. >> this is your expertise. you have correctly predicted the last nine presidential elections. from reagan. to trump. nothing is final yet. you are predicting trump will win unless democrats impeach him. explain. >> impeachment is not only right morally. the only way it hold a president to account who kbaent shaped or embarrassed. it is the constitutional remedy for a constitutional crisis. and it is right politically. you and chris discuss the fact there are scandals swirling around. and the investigation. and half a dozen different committees. that plays right into trumps hands because he is so good at deflection. distraction and obstruction. impeachment would nail down a
critical key on my system of 13 keys. it takes six keys to count out the president. and he only has three down now. impeachment would be a fourth key. and perhaps trigger other keys like a contest for his renomination. here's why impeachment is different. it focuses everything in one committee. articles of impeachment are not allegations. they are part of a formal process where the house is pointing a finger and saying we believe donald trump you are guilty of these high crimes and misdemeanors and a trial in the senate. which everyone is forgetting rabbit. that's what's so critical. >> i want to talk about it. let's drill in a little bit more. i have the 13 criteria. if trump fails to satisfy six or more of the factors that he could lose. right now he's failing on three. party mandate.
gop lost in the midterm. foreign policy. military success. which trump hasn't seen much of. and incumbent charisma. the appeal to voters is limited. how can impeachment lead to checking off more on this list? this one especially the one where it leads to impeachment. explain. >> it would check off key number nine. the scandal. that's a fourth key. that gives him only a two key cushion. if two things go wrong he's out. if the economy tilts into recession. if there's a democratic nominee. or a big foreign policy failure. he's out. the key is a trigger effect. this impeachment process the three steps could well so weaken him. even if he's not convicted by the senate. a real challenge to the renomination. that's another key. or a serious third party.
by someone like a different key. it changes the political context. i'm afraid the democratic leader are going down the same track in 2016. believing the conventional wisdom and the polls and ignoring the real dynamic. that drive elections as measured by the keys. >> very interesting. douglas, to allen's point impeachment is a process. tell me how this process works. how soon could it start? >> absolutely a process. and we have to remember in 2018 the democrats did pretty well. you wouldn't have nancy pelosi. getting rid of donald trump is the issue. there's a strategy that has to be decided. nancy pelosi is an interesting figure in history. no democratic has anything negative to say. there's trust in her leadership.
whether to start how dwro use the impeachment word. i noticed politicians today talking about starting an impeachment inquiry. and a lot of language being there. the leaders of the democratic party and biden now. by his big lead in the poll have to decide what line to step on. join warn and sanders and do an all out democratic party impeachment effort or try to not go forward with it. history is not a great guide. i have heard people talking about the nixon years. or bill clinton and ken star. clinton had a 60% approval rating going on. this was small potatoes in the affair. compared to the potential obstruction of justice. meaning don't say just because clinton went up in the polls we shouldn't impeach donald trump. nancy pelosi is the key. she has to decide with nadler and biden and the leaders
whether to join the movement. they need to do it in the next few weeks and they have to get mueller to testify. in front of the congressional judiciary committee. without a doubt. >> how do we know nancy pelosi is right about this? she has a good track record. is it possible she's wrong? >> it's also -- the reason she's pursuing the right strategy is because we understand after almost four years now of trump and american political life, that you can't shame the shameless. you can't use normal moral situation against this guy. he doesn't have morals. you have to do something if you're going to go after the king you best get it. to quote the wire. she knows she gets one shot. if she blows it and don't get him impeached in the house they
won't get hip in the senate. if they don't do the thing correctly in the house, they never get to go after him again. on any of this. he will romp on this and say i have been cleared they couldn't impeach me. we're done. she knows she's got a one shot to make it work. the timing question is let's not the advice she's getting correctly is not rush into this. rather to do it in a measured sensible way that does more political damage to trump over time. than a one and done. >> maybe i'm reading it wrong. you disagree? >> completely. it's absolutely awful politics. the one thing i agree, you can shake this guy. you can embarrass. allegations mean nothing. you have to strike at his brand
and power. and the only way to do that is the proper constitutional procedure. of impeachment. which is -- if you delay it. and put your finger in the wind. you lose the moral authority and lose the momentum. i'm not saying impeach him tomorrow. you need to start the three step process. >> my point is that you start a whole series of things that are the predicate for impeachment. you made the investigations broad spectrum. get thm moving and hold people to account. and make the life of everybody around to account. >> backseat of a cop car. >> unless you have a formal process. donald trump doesn't care about citations contempt and court decisions. he cares about himself, his power, his legacy. his brand.
the only way to hit that is the house to assume its constitutional responsibility. otherwise you might as well forget the separation of power. >> to be continued. i appreciate it. did mueller finally speak out because bill barr mischaracterized his findings? all the ways they disagree, next. when we started our business we were paying an arm and a leg for postage. i remember setting up shipstation. one or two clicks and everything was up and running. i was printing out labels and saving money. shipstation saves us so much time. it makes it really easy and seamless. pick an order, print everything you need, slap the label onto the box, and it's ready to go. our costs for shipping were cut in half. just like that. shipstation. the #1 choice of online sellers. go to shipstation.com/tv and get 2 months free.
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we're on the move. hey rick, all good? oh yeah, we're good. we're good. terminix. defenders of home. on his last day of special counsel, mueller laid it out. laid it on the line today. he didn't exonerate the president. but his boss the president's hand picked attorney general wasn't quite so forthcoming when he was asked about that at an event in alaska tonight. >> attorney general, mueller said president trump was not exonerated. why did you exonerate him? >> well. joining me now to discuss. didn't answer there. thank you so much.
after hearing from mueller today, is it even many clear the attorney general ta he worked over time. to spin the report in the president's favor? >> well, look i think what's interesting is the contrast between the press conference that special counsel mueller gave today and the earlier press c conference the attorney general gaf. if you look at the special counsel today he stuck solely to the facts. no spin on the ball. straightforward, forthright presentation. of the report. and i think because it was his report that was easy for him to do. when you put is side by side with the earlier press conference by the attorney general, those have a different character. >> there was one crucial area. where barr and mueller disagreed. watch this. >> we specifically asked him
about the o lrgs c opinion and whether or not he was taking the position that he would have found a crime. but for the existence of the opinion and he made it clear several times that that was not his position. >> under long standing department policy. a present president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he's in office. that is unconstitutional. charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider. >> do you think barr mischaracter sooigs of the guidelines is why he spoke out today? >> so, i know people are putting those clips side by side. and saying they are flatly inconsistent. i actually think if you look at them closely, and parse them. they are reconcilable. what barr was saying is that
mueller didn't make a determination that but for the olc opinion he would have affirmlily charged the president with a crime. mueller agrees with that. because of the opinion he didn't engage in the analysis of whether to charge with a crime or not. those aren't flatly inconsistent. when you read them closely. the problem is you shouldn't have to parse. when it's the attorney general of the united states. talking about a report that no one in the american public has seen. and i think the attorney general comments were understood by the vast majority of americans to mean something different what what his people are saying meant by them. >> he is saying he didn't -- this is the way i interpret it. barr is saying he never considered it. he saying it wasn't part -- i couldn't. i couldn't. he is saying it didn't factor in
to mueller's conclusion. and mueller is saying i just couldn't do it. >> so, i tote will understand that reaction. and that's the reaction the vast majority of the american people had. if you look at carefully at what barr said, he's saying something i think slightly a notch different. it's not to excuse it. >> why couldn't he just say because of the doj guidelines mueller was not able to go down the road? instead of saying it the way he said it? >> look, that's the question. i think he should have said it the other way. the other way. the way you framed it. is it wouldn't have been misleading. the thing that's important to remember at the time the attorney general made the statement. he had all the information and the rest of us in the public trying to understand what the special counsel had found.
where an entire information disadvantage. we didn't know. and so of course there were going to be misunderstandings when the attorney general framed it that way. >> isn't that the point? to i think mueller probably should have said something earlier if not the same day the report came out shortly after and he and barr should have been on the same page. barr completely spun it. whether you are saying they are reconcilable. he spun it than what the special counsel actually said today. is it important the special counsel actually maybe talked more and goes in front of congress and testifies? >> yeah. special counsel made clear today he's hoping that doesn't happen. but if he receives a subpoena i'm sure he'll obey and appear. we'll see how it plays out. we agree on the fundamental point. when it comes to the attorney
general of the united states, it's important not only to be for technically correct and accurate. also to be forthright and straightforward. so there's no sort of risk that what you are saying is interpreted by the vast majority of the people will hear it meaning something different. from what the facts are. >> you're right. and i think if you and i are saying it needs more clarification. you can imagine the folks at home who don't follow it as closely. >> mueller has no intention of testifying in front of congress. but should he be the one to make that decision?
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wouldn't go beyond aur our report. i will not provide information beyond that which is already public in any appearance before congress. >> will this be the last word from mueller? let's discuss. good evening, gentlemen. mueller says this is the last we'll hear from him. you say he should testify. why is that important? >> the report needs to come to life. we really saw that today. there's a little bit of irony. mueller said in the clip, i don't want and expect to testify. he made the case for why he needs to. he talked for ten minutes. and most of what he said is in the report. so few people in the american public and congress really understand what's in the report. and understand the significance. it's one thing to read about something on the piece of paper and another thing to hear a witness get up and get behind the stand and take an oath and talk about it. it drives it home. i saw it in trial.
it will be a huge impact if he testifies in public. >> a private citizen gets a subpoena from congress. compelled to testify. tomorrow mueller will be a private citizen. is it a decision to testify or not his to make? >> it's not. it was an opening negotiation, please don't call me. i hope that you won't call me. but at least 100% right. he spoke for ten mist and low key on script. it was riveting. a 16 hours later. it's the tv moment of bringing home to people just what's in his report. that the judiciary committee hopes to achieve and why their going to push. he's saying it will be boring like watching paint dry. i'll say what i said before. they don't think so. and they're right. i doubt they're going to back off and we will probably see him testify in one form of another. >> let's talk about that.
he said he might repeat what he already said. read the report. that's still that will be impactful. right? >> yes. even if that's all he does. he said i'll give you the facts. but no color or sort of piz as. if all he does is dry read. that will have app an impact. there are questions beyond the report that he should be asked. how exactly did barr misstate your the nature of context and sub tans of your findings? the language he put in the letter objecting to barr. we have a sense. but he needs to lay it out specifically. another question. would you have charged if not for the doj policy that we have talked about? that's an important question. and it's at least worth putting it to him and seeing if he answers. even if he read the report it will have a huge impact.
>> let's talk about the white house. they claim trump has been exonerated. that's not what mueller said. does the public need clarification? >> not really. what mueller said it's the exact opposite. of what mueller said. if you read things carefully. it really does there's no other conclusion. they know how to get to the probable cause and indictable standard. and said we couldn't exonerate. they weren't are we close and on the border. they went over and knew that meant they couldn't. the most they could say was couldn't exonerate. that's one of the things the white house is afraid of. and the reasons the close read of the report is so important. you look at the episodes as a former prosecute and a person it's 100% clear this was obstruction. >> so, okay.
you said it need to be cleared up. did today's statements leave you with more questions? >> well, it's funny. he was orr anderson coopacler. by nature. i would love to get him in the bar and ask him things for five days. i feel that i really got a bigger sense of where he stand than i did before. even with his sticking to the four corners. for instance he really does expect this is now something for congress. he does feel all american people should today take it seriously. details and nuances like that did emerge. i have fewer questions. >> what does he intend congress to do with the information. >> today their jobs. i have done mine. given you the facts. i have investigated i can't indict. there needs to be accountability
attack on the political system. they stole private information. and then released that information through fake online and identities. and through the organization wikileaks. the central allegation of the indictment, that there were multiple systemic efforts to interfere in the election. and that allegation deserves the attention of every american. >> discuss now. phil mud is here. the author of the threat matrix. inside the fbi and war on global terror. phil, the president his attorney general keep repeating the lie of no collusion. no obstruction. mueller is laying out damming details about russian attempts to disrupt the election. is that evidence of collusion? >> i don't think mueller would say it's evidence. he would say we found information that we couldn't proceed to determine whether it
was evidence because in the executive branch we can't hold the president accountable. i worked for mueller for four and a half years. not the most subtle man i worked for. if he had come it a conclusion he would have said so. i know the american people can't see this. it might appear to be subtle. he said we found a bunch of information. we can't proceed to a case. there's one place that can. that's the congress. i'm not going to prejudge the decision. i'll tell you, we could not come to determination. the president. somebody else should determine that. >> all right. this is mueller talking about the many efforts by russians to influence the election. >> this volume includes a discussion of the trump am campaign in response to the activity. as well as our conclusion. that there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader
conspiracy. in the second volume the report describes the results and analysis of our obstruction of justice investigation. involving the president. >> mueller says specifically he didn't find enough evidence to move forward. this is what phil was talking about. to move forward with a crime of -- is that the same of saying obstruction didn't occur? >> not at all. in fact, when you read the mueller report carefully. this is the type of thing that's important that mueller come out and say in his own words. whether before congress or otherwise. that mueller actually goes out of his way in the report to make clear that he felt obstructed in certain parts of his investigation that he was never able to get to the bottom of it. most famously the question of paul manafort handing over polling date to konstantin
kilimnick and russian officials. this is a situation where remember collusion is the activity. conspiracy is the crime. that mueller found collusion, but wasn't sure whether it rose to the level of a conspiracy. and one of the things that may have turned out between volume 2 and one. the obstruction may have been sufficient to prevent mueller from discovering the under lying crime here. of conspiracy. >> interesting. interesting. so listen, phil, contradicting the claim of no collusion. indictments of a half dozen trump associations as well as all of the people that have been charged here. which includes dozens of russians. do you have any degree of confidence that this administration takes russia's multiple attempts to interfere with the elections seriously? >> this is one of the most
disappointing aspects of the conversation today. in some ways. director mueller would never go after the oval office directly. remember the last lines he said. talk about russian interference in the election. every american should pay attention. where's the only place in government that can get the american people's attention about russian interference and educate the american people? that's not the department of homeland security. not cnn. that's not fbi. that's the president of the united states. who has i don't know how many tens of millions of people on twitter following him. i was looking at mueller saying that's a plea to say the most sacred right an american has is to vote free and fair. that didn't happen in the last election and nobody including the president is speaking about it. it's a sad day in some ways. >> yeah. so let's talk about mueller made clear here, that was it wasn't
made clear before. he made clear he felt bound by the justice department office of league counsel saying a sitting president cannot be indicted. why did it take so long for him to say that after he laid out nine possible instances ot obstruction in the report? >> it took long from when? from the report turned over. or -- >> when it came out. and barr sent out the summary. it's been two months. >> i think mueller has been trying to do everything he possibly can to avoid doing what he did today. which is come out and speak publicly. this is someone who has gone out of his way for two years to avoid any public utterance no matter how small. even the three major landmarks of his case. the two indictments of russian
officials and the internet research agency. and press conferences hosted by others. rosenstein and barr. mueller wanted to let the work speak for itself. as he said today. >> thank you. i appreciate it. see you next time. we'll be right back. the (new) amopé pedi perfect with diamond crystals gives you smooth results in just seconds that you'll fall in love with instantly. available at walmart in the foot care aisle. it's a revolution in sleep. the sleep number 360 smart bed is on sale now during our memorial day sale. it senses your movement, and automatically adjusts to keep you both comfortable. it even helps with this.
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hearing directly from mueller both today and potentially in front of congress in the future could have a huge impact. let's discuss now. the former substantiate special water gate prosecutor and the former director of the nixon presidential library and the author of impeachment and american history. hello, gentlemen. thank you for joining us. let me start with you, i want to talk nixon. put this up. after starting his second term his approval rating was 68%. in may the hearings started being televised and poll numbers fell. by august his approval rating. plummeted to 31%. does that speak to the power of holding televised hearings? >> no doubt about it. one of the reason why i'm convinced the trump white house is not allowing people to testify is they're concerned
americans when they hear scriptions of the things in the report and hear people describe them. they will be turned off and be turned off by the president. in 1973 the american people were riveted by the testimony of john dean. of alexander butterfield, who revealed the existence of a taping system. the people who were involved in the dirty tricks campaigns. and many who voted for nixon, because nixon won in 1972 in a landslide, began to wonder, perhaps this is not the right man for the job. >> if i question is, nixon didn't have a cable news service and conservative media, basically being his trumpet, right? pushing his narrative out. does that make a difference? >> what richard nixon faced was three major networks and the beginning of pbs, which were putting out very simple coverage of the hearings. the hearings were not mediated. there were no curators there was no filter. you got to listen to people testify.
and these committee meetings were bipartisan. even though howard baker hoped the president would survive, howard baker was not afraid -- he was the minority leader in the senate, he was not afraid of asking the tough questions. that's what we're missing today. we're also missing a buy partisan culture of investigation. >> john, you've been sitting here patiently. you were a watergate prosecutor, you watched under special prosecutors, so, my question is, how important is it for, you know, we heard from folks publicly back then, how important it is for the public to hear directly from robert mueller? >> well, tim used the right word, that people were riveted to the tv sets, but we were -- i don't know if you believe this or not, but we in the watergate prosecutors office were not out to get the president. we really weren't sure. and we frankly had our doubts about john dean. the last time i was here with you, don, john dean was also a guest, and it was the revelation of the tapes and all of a sudden, the tapes started to
change public opinion. but i'll tell you what changed it. and i can tell you, because i was there. up until october 20th, 1973, there was no serious talk about impeachment, but the saturday night massacre, i was fired, along with my bosses. that's what changed public opinion. that's what it's all about. if the trump white house continues to maintain public opinion on their side, no matter how they do it, there's going to be no threat to the president. >> i'm just wondering how much, because the only republican, as you know, the justin amash, who is talking about the president's impeachment, you talk about the tide turning during the nixon hearings. do you anticipate more people doing what justin amash was doing? or not in this environment? >> i was waiting to see after he came forward if anyone would follow him. after all, if you're a -- a conservative and a libertarian, president trump has actually been expanding the size of government and is also making
the federal government much stronger than they would want it to be. you would think that people like amash would actually be worried about obstruction of justice. but we haven't seen that happen. what we would need, i think, is something like trump saying no to the courts, the courts said to him, you must turn over your taxes, he defies -- >> he's trying now. >> he lost the first two cases. if he were to defy the supreme court or if he were to defy the appeals court, i think that might change the -- >> i'm just wondering, in this environment, if you heard mueller today, john, if you read the report, if you actually read the report, he is saying, we did not -- we couldn't charge the president and he's saying, basically saying, to me, when i heard it, well, the president may have committed a crime, but i just couldn't change him, or, he probably committed a crime and i just couldn't charge him. how long do you think -- what could be done to change the minds of lawmakers? that seems clear. >> i'm going to take an issue
with one thing. i don't think he probably would have charged the president. i think what we don't know, but what tim said is right on the money. it's that third branch of government. when i mentioned the saturday might massacre, it wasn't the firing so much, it was part of it, he ordered us, we could not go, and he was going to defy a court order. that's what changed the tide. if he does that now, he might -- >> no, he didn't say i would probably charge him, what he said was, if i could have cleared the president of a crime and i'm paraphrasing here, i would have. what does that mean to you? >> the fact that he didn't clear him doesn't mean he would have charged him. >> right. >> it just means what he said. and i don't think he's sending signals. everybody is saying bob mueller sends signals. i think he did anything but that. i think he said the report speaks for itself, it's in the eyes of the beholder. i don't think he was telling the congress, you should impeach, i think he's saying, that's your responsibility, take it or leave it, it's up to the congress. >> basically saying, there's no mechanism within the law for this, considering the findings
of the report. that's for -- he says that, again, i'm paraphrasing here, he said, that is for the political process. >> that's right. but that's the fact whether he said it or not. that's what the constitution provides. >> gentlemen, thank you. fascinating conversation. been an amazing day to watch all of this and there will be more. appreciate it. thanks for watching, everyone. our coverage continues.
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to save 30% on all the medications we carry. so go directly to petmeds.com now. hi. if we had confidence the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. >> the final word from mueller. nancy pelosi still giving no ground on impeachment. >> there were talks about moving the uss john mccain ahead of president trump's visit to japan. navy leaders said knock it off. a big scare in houston, screaming line drive hits a little girl in the stands. the