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tv   The Mueller Report Special Coverage  CNN  April 18, 2019 8:00am-9:01am PDT

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people who are absolutely going to be named in this report, and guess what, you were right. they didn't get a heads-up. they didn't get a chance to read this report. so far, at least as far as we found, it's just one person, and that's the president of the united states. so that blows out of the water the argument of why he said he gave them a heads up, and even more gives even more suspicion to the reality that they wanted to allow the president's team to really work on this rebuttal report and get them ready politically. >> john, it's 11:00 a.m. here now on the east coast. we're told that the document is being made available to the chairman of the ranking member of the house and senate judiciary committee. they and their staff will begin to go through it, but it's 400 pages. that takes a while. >> so we'll see reactions coming out within minutes of them getting it. we were covering the white house back in the starr report day when we were reading it live on cable television, not recommending we go back to that, and i think it's important that we take our time and take a
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breath and that we read things. my biggest question is whether we will do that here, and i hope americans -- what's interesting to me yesterday watching barnes & noble and other companies telling americans, we'll make this available to you instantly. it would be nice if people read it, took a breath, took a walk, talked about it and friends and family and colleagues. we don't live in that world. think about what we have been going through the last couple hours. let alone the last two years in reading tweets every day attacking the investigators. attacking the justice department, the democrat saying things about the president that they can't back up yet. so both sides are guilty players. we could make a judgment on who's done more of it, but both sides are guilty players, and now we're going to get the results of an investigation led by a man who with he began the investigation, everybody said was the perfect guy to do this job. will people actually read it and process it factually and not through their partisan spectrum? forgive me, but i'm skeptical.
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>> one other thing that's interesting to contrast what's going on today with the release of the special counsel report, redacted, and as redacted by the attorney general, and what happened 20 years ago with bill clinton and the independent counsel, ken starr. ken starr was truly independent. he released his report. there were no redactions. this isn't the day of dial-up, so not everybody was able to access it online at the same time, but people in the political world, not in the media world, but people in the political world were so upset with how little recourse and oversight the executive branch had over what ken starr did that they rewrote the law, and robert mueller and donald trump are benefitting compared to what bill clinton went through, because of that. >> the story of these independent investigations is the story of reactions to the last war. you know, after the saturday night massacre in 1973, congress got upset about the ability of a
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president to be able to fire the independent counsel, to fire a special prosecutor, as archibald cox was fired. they passed the act which established the independent counsel as someone who was outside the department of justice and not answerable to the attorney general. in response to that, democrats got upset with ken starr's what they thought overinvestigation, overreaction, over impending counsel investigations. they let the ethics and government act lapse, turning it all back to the justice department. now, democrats don't like the fact that the special prosecutor, the special counsel, is in fact the subordinate of the attorney general, so democrats are starting to like the independent counsel law again. it's about whose x is scored and there's no sensible solution. >> i want to go back to manu raju on capitol hill. it's almost 11:04 a.m. on the
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east coast. does congress have the redacted mueller report? >> yeah, in fact, the house judiciary committee, jake, just received a copy of the redacted version of the report. we're told this by jerry nadler, the house judiciary chairman's spokesman came out and told reporters who were waiting outside the room that an individual did walk in and drop off this disk, this courier, it appears, came in and dropped this off to the house judiciary committee. we expect that also to happen momentarily with the senate judiciary committee to receive the redacted version of the report. other committees, too, are expecting to get some version of this, including the senate intelligence committee, the house intelligence committee, but just moments ago, we're told by jerry nadler's office that they did for the first time receive the redacted version of the report that apparently the white house counsel's office has
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had a chance to review but now democrats and republicans on this committee will look at it, and the public momentarily will also get a chance to see the redacted report. >> how do they find a computer to use a disk? >> it is up. is it online? you can go to >> pamela brown, you're getting initial word on this report. what are you learning? >> we're just waiting to learn. it's 11:05 a.m. the attorney general said at 11:00 a.m. eastern time, this report would be handed to congress. and so we're just waiting to find out more. i'm sure everyone is eagerly hitting the refresh button on the department of justice website where the attorney general said that the link to the report, the redacted report, would be made to the public. at this point, we're all just very anxious to start reading. >> you haven't started reading yet.
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j jim, you had a point. >> we talked about ken starr. i remember when that report came out, reading through it. a more recent historical context is the james comey press conference three years ago. he came out, did not indict, said the use of personal emails didn't amount to wrongdoing, but lambasted her for what he described as reckless behavior with emails, which you could agree with or not agree with, but it's interesting to look at barr being the mirror image of that moment and saying nothing rose to the level of criminal wrongdoing. and by the way, he's 1,000 percent exonerated on everything and repeating that many times. it's an interesting comparison. >> let's go back to pamela brown now, as our team is starting to go over the mueller report. pam, first reactions. >> first getting insight analysis on why robert mueller's team could not exonerate the president on obstruction of justice. here's what we're learning. this is what it says, mueller unable to conclude that no criminal conduct occurred by the
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president on obstruction of justice. mueller's investigation was unable to clear the president, and here's what the report said that is just released moments ago. mueller's team said, quote, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would state so. based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we're unable to reach that judgment. the evidence we obtained about the president's actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred, accordingly while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him. that last sentence was in bill barr's four-page letter to congress, and now we're getting the fuller context around that sentence of why robert mueller's team could not exonerate him, saying that if we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would state so.
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they were unable to state so. we know there are ten different incidents they looked at, according to bill barr, and we're waiting to find out what those are. >> thank you so much. and jeffrey toobin, what do you make of robert mueller even putting that out there? if you can't reach a conclusion, why leave it up in the air like that? >> i have to tell you, it is inconsistent with all of the reporting i have done about robert mueller's tradition and history and personality and temperament. i think overarching this decision has to be the department of justice policy that they couldn't prosecute the president anyway. so there was no real pressure to make the decision of up or down indictment or no indictment. so why not punt? but i still think it's strange. >> it's unusual, no question. >> i think laura jarrett is getting more details from the report. what are you learning? >> well, wolf, i want to walk you through what is a quite
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dense report. and i want to focus on the obstruction of justice situation here. obviously, the report is broken into two different sections. one on conspiracy between the trump campaign and the russian government. but really, on the obstruction of justice issue, the report is quite dense, quite thorough. i want to walk you through some of how robert mueller was looking at this analysis. and he started with the framework of the fact that a sitting president cannot be indicted. you heard me ask the attorney general about that earlier today. and robert mueller looked at that fact, and he said i'm going to stand by that long-standing doj protocol and so he accepted that for the purposes of this analysis. so if he accepted that fact, you might wonder, then what was all of this about? he goes on to explain that the reason they did this, this thorough factual investigation, if you will, wolf, is in order to preserve the evidence when memories were fresh and documentary materials were
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available. so they clearly felt the need to go through all of this, even not withstanding the fact that a sitting president could not be indicted. he goes on to say, fairness concerns counseled against potentially reaching that judgment that the president committed crimes when no charges could be brought. so because a sitting president cannot be indicted, we determined not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgment that the president committed crimes. so it gives you a little bit of a sense there of what they were struggling with, since all of our questions for the last several weeks have been, why did he not reach a conclusion on obstruction of justice? and so clearly, they thought this was an unusual case. but they wanted to preserve memories and evidence. and they go on to explain that congress does have a role here. that was one of our other big questions, is did he think that congress should pick up the mantle here on obstruction of justice? on that point, here's what he
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says. i want to read it to you in full. with respect to whether the president can be found to have obstructed justice by exercising his powers under article ii of the constitution, we concluded that congress has authority to prohibit a president's corrupt use of his authority in order to protect the integrity of the administration of justice. so clearly, what they're saying here is not withstanding the fact that we haven't reached a traditional prosecutorial judgment on obstruction of justice. nothing here prevents congress from not picking up the baton if they so choose to pursue this matter, wolf. >> it's very interesting. carrie, let me get your analysis on what we just heard. >> well, it does sound, first of all, as if the special counsel's team did actually take into account the justice department prevailing legal theory that a president could not be indicted. >> a sitting president. >> sate issing president, excuse me, could not be indicted. it does seem in some way that
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was a factor. it also sounds like they were encountering a set of facts that they really were wrestling with. and on that point, itisodd for a special prosecutor not to make -- any prosecutor not to be able to decide one way or another. there's a standard. the standard is could they have a reasonable likelihood of succeeding on the merits in a case. and so what i think i'm hearing from what laura is describing so far is that they did factor in the fact that there never was going to be a prosecutable case, and this was the facts that they developed through the course of their investigation ultimately is a political question. >> i want to go to laura jarrett for one second because laura has read the report. she got it before two minutes ago or wherever it was released. there was a really interesting section about donald trump jr.'s interaction with wikileaks on page 59. it talks about, when we're talking about earlier why
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attorney general barr talked about how the dissemination of stolen material via wikileaks is not a crime, you have to actually have had a hand in the hacking in order for it to be a crime, you have donald trump -- and there is reporting on this before, this is not entirely new, donald trump jr. coordinating and communicating with wikileaks and at one point, wikileaks sends a message, a direct message on twitter to donald trump jr. asking, quote, you guys, to help disseminate a link alleging the candidate clinton had advocated using a drone to target julian assange, which is a false charge. she never said that. trump jr. responded he had, quote -- he had done so, and he asked what's behind this wednesday leak i keep reading about? wikileaks did not respond. on october 12th, 2016, wikileaks wrote again, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications. strongly suggest your dad tweets this link if he mentions us. then they provide the link.
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wikileaks wrote the link would help trump in digging through leaked emails and stated we just released podesta emails part four. two days later, trump jr. tweeted that link. the ultimate conclusion is there's not a crime because you had to have been part of the hacking, not the dissemination. >> yeah, that's right, jake. so that's really more of a legal conclusion, but the facts there, as you lay out, are quite telling. it's revealing things we have never heard before. as i said, we're still working our way through it. it's a beast of a report here. quite dense. many sections i read through were not redacted at all, so we're still working our way through some of it, but it's an interesting point that you raise. we're going to see, i think, more and more of some of these conversations that we had really never heard anything about before. >> a direct quote on that, because this gets to the key issue about the campaign interest in help from russia. and we have raised this a lot. so mueller says in his report,
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although the investigation established that the russian government perceived it would benefit from trump, and listen to this, this is a quote, and that the campaign expected it would benefit electerally from information stolen and released through russian efforts, the campaign expected it would benefit, it would help them. it does go on to say, it did not establish members of the trump campaign conspired or coordinated. it went on though to say trump's presidential campaign, quote, showed interest in wikileak's release of emails and so on. not rising to the criminal standard, but they expected they would benefit from a foreign adversary's influence on a u.s. presidential campaign in progress. they expected they would benefit, and expecting that benefit, they showed interest in the releases. now, that interest they showed may be interest we already know about. communications like, you know, twitter messages with roger stone or the president standing at a podium and saying i love wikileaks or there could be more. but again, this gets to not criminal but is this behavior acceptable by a u.s. presidential candidate?
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>> i want to go to evan perez who has also read the report. tell us what you think some of the big takeaways are from the report. >> jake, i think the section on collusion, you know, is one of the things that began, obviously, the issue of collusion began this investigation. and on that, the report goes through all of the efforts that the russian government first beginning in 2014, began this effort to try to interfere with the united states, trying to undermine the electoral process. and then eventually, transitioned to a campaign to support donald trump and hurt hillary clinton. and on that part, on page five of the report, it says, quote, the presidential campaign of donald j. trump showed interest in wikileaks releases and welcomed their potential damage to candidate clinton. this is as far as they go to try to describe what the trump campaign was trying to do to essentially tacitly encourage what the russians were doing through wikileaks, through other
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methods. it's clear that they examined this stuff and they saw that some of the activities that the trump campaign took into account and acted upon really went up to the line, but did not cross into the line as they say here, the investigation did not establish that members of the trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the russian government in its election interference activity. part of the report describes some of the various activities in 2016 between different people associated with the trump campaign working with russians, beginning with george papadopoulos, carter page, and paul manafort, who met with konstantin kilimnik, someone he was doing business with, and apparently according to the report, shared internal polling data. what's new in the report, a new sentence here that says manafort caused internal polling data to be shared with kilimnik, and the sharing continued for some
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period of time after their august meeting. this was a meeting in new york. and again, this is new information. we have known that there was some sharing of polling data. we did not know the extent of it, and we certainly didn't know that the sharing continued for some time, according to this report. >> in terms of the big picture, evan, you have gone through the collusion. the conspiracy chunk of this 400-page report. based on what you're reading, is it consistent with the very pro-trump spin that we got from the attorney general of the united states? >> yeah, you know, look, i think if you read this, again, you'll read it with a lens that you come with. i do think that people will see these activities that were going on between members of the campaign, people associated with the campaign, and they'll look at the activities of the russians and see how they intersected, and you have to wonder why a campaign for
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presidency of the united states, why people did not say, alert the fbi about what exactly was happening. instead, they seemed to be trying to encourage it. they seemed to be accepting of the fact that the trump campaign was going to be benefitting from what the russians were up to. they knew, again, in different ways, that the russians had dirt, so to speak, on hillary clinton in the form of emails. the report describes some of those conversations. and yet none of those people decided to reach out to law enforcement and say hey, this is what's going on. again, you can make your own judgment as to whether or not that crossed a line into criminal behavior. according to the justice department, according to this report, it did not cross the line into criminal behavior. but the question i think we all will be left with after this is was this okay? was this the way we expect a major campaign for the presidency of the united states to behave in the face of what
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was known to be an attack from a hostile foreign government. >> evan, on that point, did mueller in his report specifically criticize these trump associated for not going to the fbi, reporting these contacts with the russians? >> well, the report doesn't really do that, wolf. i think the essence of it is to lay out the facts. they're trying to essentially describe the charging decisions, and the decisions they did make, the charges they made were against people for lying, obviously, like george papadopoulos, and against some of the russians who actually did the hacking and actually were behind some of the social media interference campaigns. so they describe their decision making on making those charges. but as far as the rest is concerned, it's clear that their interpretation of the law, and i think everybody's interpretation of the law, is this went up to
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the line. but it did not cross over into criminal behavior. there's a lot of things that campaigns can do in order to win elections, and that is protected, obviously. >> all right, evan perez. we should note, the mueller report is divided into two volumes. the first volume is on the investigation into any conspiracy or what the president refers to as collusion. and the second volume is about the obstruction of justice examination and exploration. let me go back to laura jarrett at the justice department on that case. laura, what are you learning? >> well, it's interesting, jake. there have been some discussion ahead of time going into today about why didn't robert mueller sit down with the president for an in-person interview. we know they did that takehome test, but that was on the issue of conspiracy or collusion, not obstruction. in the report, mueller addresses the issue of the spheneubpoena. i wanted to provide color on his
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explanation for why they didn't go forward in it. in the report, ultimately while we believe we have the authority and legal justification to issue a grand jury subpoena to obtain the president's testimony, we chose not to do so. we made that decision in view of the substantial delay that such an investigative step would likely produce at a late stage in our investigation. he goes on to say, we also assessed that based on the significant body of evidence that we already had obtained of the president's actions and his public and private statements describing or explaining those actions. we had sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the president's testimony. so it's an interesting point there because i think some people had raised, how could you possibly make an assessment of corrupt intent and defer any issue if you didn't get an in-person interview, and essentially what the special counsel's team is saying while we thought we had the authority to do it, we didn't go through
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with it because of all the delays and we had essentially a whole boddo of evidence at our fingertips that we didn't decide to sit down with him. >> a quick question to laura. does the report contain the written q&a questions and answers that the president and his legal team did provide the special counsel, robert mueller? do we see what the president said in his written answers to the written questions? >> we understand that there is an appendix to this report, wolf, that does provide some portion of the president's answers. we're still working our way through it. we haven't made it all the way through that yet, but we do have some of, at least some if not all of the president's answers on those issues. >> but what i'm not hearing is that mueller in his report concludes that because they did get written answers, written questions, that was good enough. >> no, i don't think that's what he's saying here exactly. i think it's more that we have the authority to, we could have
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sat down with him. we got the take-home test, at least on conspiracy, not on the issue of obstruction of justice. so on the issue of obstruction of justice, all they have to go on is essentially what they're seeing in public view and what they're getting from other witnesses. they had the testimony of people like his former white house counsel, don mcgahn, his former attorney general, jeff sessions, which they detail in here. and form the basis of some of the facts they're using in their analysis, separate and apart from the take-home test. >> and laura, let me ask you because attorney general barr when he gave his press conference earlier today, talked about how the special counsel's report delineated ten specific episodes within the context of their legal case of obstruction of justice, though they did not reach ultimately a conclusion and the attorney general said he disagreed with their theory and also he doesn't think there was obstruction of justice. what are these ten episodes that constituted at the very least a legal theory, according to barr,
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characterizing mueller, of obstruction of justice? what are the ten moments? >> some of them are going to be very familiar to you. of course, the firing of the fbi director, james comey. all of the pressure that he put on jeff sessions. it's interesting in here to unrecuse. they had conversations between sessions, even after flynn was indicted, where he was putting pressure on him, asking him to unrecuse, telling him, look, you'll be a hero if you do it. and sessions says, i don't think you did anything wrong. i don't think there was any basis to believe the campaign conspired with russia, but he ultimately didn't recuse, as we know. they also have of the instances in which the president tried to shape the narrative with mcgahn on public reports and mcgahn felt like he was being used as a tool in that way, often pishing back. there's many of these, as we said, i should say, the attorney general said, were in public view, but it's interesting. mueller said that's not dispositive. just because it's in public view
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doesn't mean that it couldn't still be harmful in an obstruction context. so that fact wasn't dispositive for mueller. it wasn't weighted the same was as it appears to have been for the attorney general. >> interestingly, the attorney general at the time, jeff sessions recused himself on the advice of the department of ethics lawyers in the justice department, but the special counsel basically says that his meetings, jeff sessions' meetings with russian officials, were nondescript and benign and nothing really substantive happened in those meetings. >> that's right, but it's interesting the special counsel still took note of all the pressure he was putting on sessions to unrecuse, and of course, the big question there is why. why was it so important to have an attorney general that he thought had his back, and clearly, he wasn't successful in those efforts, but they do outline all of the different pressures he put on a whole host of other people, even his deputy
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national security adviser, k.t. mcfarland, wanting her to write a certain statement about conversations about russian sanctions with flynn. she didn't do it because she wasn't sure it waw truthful. there's a whole host of efforts, i will call, of pressure on former administration officials. >> laura, let me ask you a question i just asked evan as well. in the portions of this 400-page redacted mueller report that uhave read so far, and you have been going 33 it as quickly as you can, is it consistent with what you're hearing from mueller, with what we heard from the attorney general earlier in the day? >> i think that's hard to say at this point, wolf, honestly. i think this presents a far, far more nuanced picture of what mueller was facing and perhaps we had a preview of that when the attorney general originally said there were difficult issues of facts and law on both sides. and you see them really laying that out and struggling with it here. but in terms of why they didn't
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make that determination, that ultimate conclusion on obstruction here, it is far more nuanced. it's far more legally dense than what the attorney general had laid out. and as he said, he wasn't trying to provide a cohesive explanation of the entire report. but it does appear, at least based on our initial review, that the special counsel's office thought the fact you couldn't indict a sitting president and the president couldn't therefore go to trial and defend himself, meant something here. >> all right, laura jarrett, thank you. let's talk with our legal team here about the ten instances of potential obstruction of justice. first and foremost, obviously, the firing of the fbi director, which is one of those ten. but also, as laura points out, the constant pressure on the then-attorney general jeff sessions, to unrecuse himself. the president telling him you'll become a hero if you unrecuse yourself and seize control of
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the special counsel investigation. >> it's a lot of evidence, to be honest, i'm just trying to figure out where things are going. you know, what's significant about the ten incidents is that there are ten of them. and they all point in the same direction. each individual incident, there is a perhaps innocent explanation. but when you see the president over and over again trying to interfere, trying to stop, trying to stop people from cooperating, there's a very interesting section i'm reading now about michael cohen, about the efforts to get him not to cooperate and then to punish him once he does cooperate with law enforcement. but again, there are explanations for each individual act by the president and his allies. it becomes harder to justify them when there are so many of them, all pointing in the same direction. >> generally speaking, i'm no legal expert, but when
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prosecutors have an example of ten, ten examples of something happened, they generally don't give the benefit of the doubt to the potential subject or defendant. >> and i think also what's interesting is that it confirms, it seems to confirm in the report that just because things happen in public doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't still provide evidence for potentially criminal behavior or activity that would be in violation of the statute. so certainly, the president's intent would have been relevant in the obstruction case, but if there were ten different scenarios, again, i think one of the most important things that are going to come out of the hearings of the attorney general and the special counsel is why under the obstruction statute didn't you think that this wasn't -- you could look at an obstruction case on one or two examples. if there were ten examples of the president trying to derail, obstruction, or destruct the investigation, why isn't that
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sufficient? >> i have been reading the answers to the take-home exam that mueller -- it's at the very end of the report. and from my first look, it has most of the questions -- most all of the questions i think and virtually all of the answers. and again, in my first look, they are very heavily lawyered, and virtually every answer, i shouldn't say -- many answers begin, i have no independent recollection of x. so the president and his lawyers are very careful, as good lawyers are, in those answers not to commit him to any specific response but they aren't terribly illuminating either. >> laura, let me go through some of these ten moments and get your response. the areas involving the president's potential obstruction of justice include his conduct involving the fbi director james comey, whom he fired. his conduct regarding former
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national security adviser michael flynn. he asked comey to take it easy on flynn, according to comey. other areas include the president's reaction to the continuing russia investigation. the appointment of the special counsel, efforts to remove the special counsel, efforts to curtail the special counsel, efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence, further efforts to have attorney general sessions take control of the investigation, efforts to have don mcgahn deny that the president ordered him to have mueller removed. conduct towards flynn and former campaign chairman paul manafort, and conduct towards former trump fixer michael cohen. again, that's a lot. and prosecutors in general, i would say, are a zealous bunch. i hope you're not insulted by that characterization. >> that's probably an understatement. we would love to have ten bits of evidence that actually most of which happened in the public. that's wonderful for a prosecutor. what's not wonderful here is the
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misconception that people have. you listed essentially ten separate categories where the president failed to stop the investigation. just because they were failures does not mean that you have not implicated the obstruction of justice charge. you can endeavor to do so. it's a crime of endeavoring. meaning you can attempt to do so, and even if you're unsuccessful at influencing or preventing or undermining the investigation, it can still constitute obstruction of justice. which leads me to question, frankly, given the instances you're talking about here and the ten categories of information, why william barr stood up in front of a podium today and handed out documents to say that the president and the white house was fully cooperative in every instance about the investigation. you have outlined a litally of instances where they were not cooperative. the second category is yet again why you have the reason you do not want to have a distillation or a summary.
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we're finding here in stark contrast to what barr wrote in his march letter that said that first there was never an indication or determination made based on that olc opinion about doj guideline not to indict the president. we have it in there now. we also had him stand before the podium today and say no, no, i don't believe mueller ever explicitly told me not to hand it over to congress because it's good to be the king and there prerogative of the a.g. is to receive the confidential report. we're seeing perhaps he had teed it up to punt the congress. so you're seeing here the idea of just because it failed doesn't mean it's not obstruction, and why a summation is never going to give the complete picpicture, it can oft mislead. >> the ten categories, each of the categories, and jake, you went through them, but even conduct against flynn, manafort, pushing mcgahn to deny the president ordered him to fire mueller. these categories, there may be more details, was there a way he
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pressured michael cohen we weren't aware of or manafort or flynn, but at least the categories, the ten instances, wir there dramatically new categories of obstructions, appears not, but the devil is in the details. >> we just got the first volume, two volumes, printed out of this mueller report. there are several pages of redactions, clearly, report on the investigation into russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. this is volume one of two volumes. special counsel robert s. mueller iii submitted, blah blah blah, a u.s. department of justice document. people are going to be going through this page by page by page. this is just volume one of two volumes. pamela brown, you have been going through it very, very closely. tell us a little more of what you're learning about the ten episodes, possible obstruction of justice that mueller and his team investigated. >> well, it is clear that special counsel robert mueller and his team sort of wove together these ten different
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episodes surrounding the president and his behavior. i'm going to tick through this list that is in this report just released. they include the trump campaign's response to reports about russian support for trump, conduct involving fbi director james comey and former national security adviser michael flynn. the president's reaction to the continuing russia investigation. the firing of fbi director james comey. the appointment of the special counsel and efforts to remove him. efforts to curtail the special counsel. efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence. further efforts to have attorney general jeff sessions take control of the investigation. efforts to have white house counsel don mcgahn deny that the president ordered him to have mueller removed. the was following a "new york times" report. conduct towards flynn and paul manafort, and conduct toward former personal lawyer michael cohen. they also evaluated the why, as we heard earlier from bill barr. he sort of laid this picture out that the president was fighting back, that he was a victim.
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in this report, it says that, quote, the president expressed concerns to advisers that reports of russia's election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election. so that also gives you a glimpse into the why. what they were looking at in terms of why the president and his aides might want to curtail the investigation, and that is key. i also want to note that we're learning that robert mueller has referred 14 investigations to other offices. that is key here. there are 12 ongoing investigations, information about them, that are redacted in this report. the other two are what we already know of, michael cohen, the personal attorney and fixer to donald trump, former attorney, i should say. as well as greg craig, the former white house counsel who was recently indicted for lying to doj about his work on behalf of ukraine. so what this tells you is that the robert mueller investigation into russian interference and
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possible coordination is done. possible coordination of russians with the campaign is done, but there is clearly fallout with us learning today that mueller referred 14 other investigations to other offices that they're working on right now. back to you. >> very significant that we don't know the details, but the u.s. attorney for the southern district of new york, the u.s. attorney here in washington, the u.s. attorney in virginia, presumably elsewhere around the country, they're going to continue to look into all of these allegations of possible criminal wrongdoing. >> and in terms of the obstruction of justice charge, though we know that attorney general barr doesn't think there's anything there that's prosecutable, and we know that mueller at the very least was ambivalent and did not reach a specific conclusion, this document now goes from being a legal document to becoming a political document. >> absolutely. >> and the house now being controlled by democrats is incredibly relevant to this, and
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democrats are going to look at these ten episodes of potential obstruction, i'm guessing, just throwing it out there, quite differently than the way attorney general barr does. >> every road map to potential impeachment proceedings. they're going to be careful and clear. we're already hearing from democrats in the house that they want to hear from robert mueller himself, but knowing about his personality and the way he approaches this, he's not going to go up to congress and say yeah, i think he should be impeached. he's going to say look at what i did. what he did in here, as pamela just laid out, is a road map, a ten-episode road map for really serious consideration for impeachment, because these are things that the mueller team concluded were intended to derail their investigation. and so when i say it's going to be hard for the democrats in the house to not at least look at that, it is because it is just as you said, jake, spot on.
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this is a political question that is why robert mueller didn't make a conclusion. he just laid out the fact. it's a political question whether or not what the president did, according to mueller, reaches the level of high crimes and misdemeanors which is what the constitutional bar is. >> he essentially says so. he says so. he says we never want to entertain the question of indictment because you don't indict a sitting president. that's what the justice department says. then he says if we could have said there was no obstruction, we would have said so. it's telling that he doesn't. he said we recognize that a federal criminal investigation against the president would place burdens of the president's capacity to govern and preempt constitutional processes. he was saying i'm not the fire department because the justice department says you can't indict a sitting president, but here's the smoke. >> i have to start with the house of representatives and the speaker nancy pelosi has already said between now and the 2020 election, the democrats in the house, they have a lot more important things to do than
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focus in on impeachment right now. do you think this document is going to change nancy police's attitude? >> i think they have a bit of a conundrum here, and they're going to have to sit down, read this report, and figure it out. and the question that i really have, and the lawyers can answer this, the question that i really have is collusion, the word knowingly was important, did anyone knowingly collude, et cete cetera, and the answer from mueller and barr is no, you couldn't establish that. is that the same question with obstruction? it seems to me in starting to read this voluminous report, that you did have a president who was frustrated, angry, lashing out, trying to get his white house counsel to fire mueller, and then apparently trying to get him to say that the president didn't get him to fire mueller. so you have a president, you know, talking to his national
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security team about this. you know, talking to comey about this. et cetera. and is there something in this that says, well, the president didn't know that he was obstructing anything, that he was ignorant of the law in this matter, and therefore we shouldn't treat it the same way we would treat someone who was knowingly obstructing justice? >> can i bring up one other thing about this obstruction of justice charge, because it is significant. we have been told by the trump white house that it is fake news that he wanted and in fact ordered the white house counsel, don mcgahn at the time, to fire robert mueller. >> not. >> it's been reported, i believe "the new york times" broke that story, and the white house said it's fake news. it's not true. page 216, on june 17th, 2017, president trump called mcgahn, the white house counsel, at home, and directed him to call the acting attorney general and
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say that the special counsel had conflicts of interest, that's robert mueller, and must be removed. mcgahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential saturday night massacre. again, there are the legal questions here. and then there is the question of ethics and morality and when the white house lies and the white house lies to the american people, and says no, the president never did that, that falls in this category. it's not illegal to lie to the american people, but it was done. >> we can assume mcgahn himself was the source of that. >> a legal question that is of interest to a lot of people. >> was it mine? >> it's related to yours. well, if he didn't fire mueller, then there was no obstruction of justice. that's not the law. the law is if you attempt to obstruct justice, that's the crime. >> see martha stewart. >> if you don't see it as obstruction, and you can say this is my authority as
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president of the united states, or you know, i can fire and hire whomever i want, article ii, et cetera, or i'm ignorant of the law, and i was just trying to sorta -- >> ignorance isn't a defense. >> you're asking the critical question in most white-collar cases, which is about criminal intent. >> right. >> and the answer to that by and large is that it's usually a jury question. in that was there bad intent? and that's not defined with precision. and as i'm reading here, the section i was reading was about the instruction to comey to go easy on mike flynn. and the report goes through all of the possible explanations of why he might have told comey to go easy on mike flynn, including just personal sympathy and it doesn't answer the question of
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whether there was bad intent. but that question of, you know, corrupt intent, bad intent, it's the critical question in all of these white-collar cases. but it's usually just up to the jury to see if it's there. >> you mentioned the mcgahn example. i have been looking in the report for what's new news, what we didn't know. it recounts an example of possible obstruction we did not know about before. relates to corey lewandowski, june 19th, 2017. where the president called him into the office, dictated a message to lewandowski, and told him to tell sessions that he should publicly announce the investigation was, quote, very unfair, and let him move forward with the investigation, the investigation election meddling for future elections. in other words, get off 2016 and look to the future. that's an instance of a president trying to get an aide to instruct his sitting attorney general to stop investigating
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this, interestingly, corey lewandowski handed that off to rick dearborn, and he refused to do it. like the mcgahn example, the president instructed, they refused to follow through, which should be confidence indicing, but it's another incident we know about of an attempt to allegedly obstruct. >> let's go back to the moment in which robert mueller states it is a fact that president trump called don mcgahn, then the white house counsel, and says fire robert mueller. fire the special counsel. now, mcgahn ultimately does not fire him. he's one of the guardrails or was one of the guardrails of the trump presidency. and the white house goes out and once this breaks, i think it broke a year later in "the new york times," the white house lies about it. the white house says that never happened. it's fake news. but that act, potentially obstruction of justice. >> yes, the attempt to do so obstructs justice.
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the idea of him being ignorant of the law in that capacity, the very second he fired james comey, we can all recall that day, obstruction of justice was no longer like a nebulous term, it was floated because he was aware of that. his lawyers were brought in to undermine that assumption, and then it follows up with mcgahn and down the law, if there was a moment of ignorance of the law, that was in the rear-view mirror. the fact it was unsecsisful, the fact that maybe nobody carried out the particular endeavor does not say oh, then you never committed the crime. that's what's missing from the discussion that the president's team has been having up until now that it didn't happen. the investigation went on. i was cooperative, in barr's statement today, i didn't deny, didn't try to cleanse or bleach any information. i encouraged you to go forward. that may be true, but on a scale of the obstruction of justice thing, you have to think about
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what you didn't do versus what you actually did endeavor to do. in that respect, it's still one of ten categories of obstruction. >> and beyond the statutory criminal elements of obstruction, the question is, is it an abuse of the president's authority? that's the question congress is going to take on. if the attorney general subscribes to the view or if the white house lawyers have argued that all of this activity was legitimate because the president has the ability, the executive authority to fire people in the executive branch. >> including robert mueller. that's the argument. >> essentially his attorney general, the special counsel, these are all sill individuals who are in the executive branch. if that's the argument, then the constitutional question is, is that an abuse of his authority because he was not doing it because they weren't doing their job. it wasn't an appropriate attempt to use his executive authority. he's abusing or at least he was trying very, very hard to
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abuse -- >> mueller concluded while he couldn't exonerate the president, at the same time, he wasn't going to go forward and press charges or anything along those lines. because he didn't think whatever he described in the criminal intent and along those lines -- >> what's interesting in reading over all of this, particularly the mcgahn segment here which is crucial, as we all know, that it seems to me there were many times the president was warned by his then white house counsel, you shouldn't do this. you should not be calling your national security people. you should not be saying things that you're saying about flynn or whatever. so it seems to me that there was an effort made to kind of rein in the president who was obviously frustrated, upset, with this entire investigation. and that the president at one point said i know i shouldn't have done this, but i did. that he was told that these
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behaviors are not appropriate and you shouldn't be doing this, and yet he did it anyway. >> he's always been on notice about the issue, but laura jarrett made a really important she reported the idea that he also wanted to preserve memories and get things on the record even in spite of not being able to indict. it was a sitting president. well, one of the reasons you want to preserve information is because you are keen to the idea of a statute of limitations period of which to bring criminal action against somebody and when that memory would need to be refreshed later on down the road, either for the political constitutional objective perhaps of impeachment or also the fact that here we are in april of 2019, and november 2020 is a hop, skip and a jump away. wouldn't it be nice to preserve information and the integrity of an investigation, in fact that the doj guideline about a sitting president was no longer applicable? >> you know. let's go to pamela brown.
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she's getting more information on the whole involvement of the special white house counsel don mcgahn on what was going on as far as the president ordering him to do certain things that resulted in an investigation of possible obstruction of justice. >> reporter: that's right. there's key things here. there's the episodes that happened and the why, and we're learning in reading this report part of what robert mueller's team scrutinized as to the why, in fact we've learned there's one section here about when the president learned about robert mueller being appointed. he slumped back in his chair and said, quote, oh, my god. this is terrible. this is the end of my presidency. these are direct quotes from robert mueller's report about the president's reaction to his appointment in may of 2017. fast forward a month after that, in june 2017, we're learning that the president called his then white house counsel don mcgahn at home over the weekend and told don mcgahn, directed him to call rob rosenstein, the
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deputy attorney general, saying robert mule core not stay on on as special counsel because there's conflicts of interest. we've learned that don mcgahn said he would not do so, that that would be another saturday night massacre and that was not something that he was going to do. also, as part of this, the special counsel included the part where this was reported and the president told don mcgahn to go out and pubically deny that the president had asked him to remove robert mueller. as we know that never happened, but this is something that robert mueller's team looked at as part of the calculation of whether this was a direct attempt to curtail the investigation in attempt to remove the special counsel. now, as we know, that never happened, but clearly laid out in this report robert mueller showed that the president wanted to remove him, directed his then white house counsel don mcgaab to do it but mcgahn didn't. what you're seeing come to light as we're trying to piece this together are examples of some of the president's own officials
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saving the president from himself essentially in this obstruction probe. >> interesting. >> a significant moment. why are you chuckling? >> it just -- if this isn't obstruction of justice, i'd like to see what is obstruction of justice because, i mean, the scale and the number of episodes in the way that the president tried to stop this investigation without stopping it, and that needs to be point out, is just extraordinary and, you know, and you want to talk about motive. i mean, the part that pamela just quoted. he's sitting there look at an investigation where he says this is the end of my presidency. so he spends the next year trying to interfere with that investigation so his presidency doesn't end. i mean, that's as clear an indication of moist as i can -- as can i determine, and if you look at the extraordinary details here, you know, the --
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the often minute-by-minute analysis of who the president is calling and when and what he's saying including phone calls i certainly wasn't aware to have corey lewandowski who he was telling, you know, and i suppose, you know, one explanation for all of this is that he was just blowing off steam and the invariably explanation from sarah sanders that he was just joking, but it's a lot of evidence of obstruction of justice. >> he wasn't wore bead collusion if he really meant it for the past two years that there was no collusion. why was he doing all of this? >> to play devil's advocate as attorney general bere did today. in the president's view there was no conspiracy. >> right. >> this was concocted by democrats and the media and the deep state, and it was undermining his presidency, and he wanted it to end and there was no conspiracy. >> there was no conspiracy, but it turns out, maybe i'm answering my own question, that -- i'm sorry, but there was
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collusion when you look at the actual definition that have term. there wasn't conspire. >> i it's not a legal sflerm it. that's exactly right. there was no crime committed by the special counsel, but on page after page after page instance after instance you see people within the trump campaign and the russians talking to, coordinating with one another started when you said at the beginning to don jr., the trump tower meeting with wikileaks. it goes on and on. not criminal but collusion in the truest definition of the word. >> can i go back to jeffrey for one second where you were talking about don mcgahn, and, you know, the -- the description of the president calling mcgahn. he says you've got to do this. you've got to call rod, and this was about getting rid of -- getting rid of mule, and it seems to me in reading through all of this, and mcgwyn dahn di
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act, it that mcgahn saved the president from himself. >> hold on one second. the exact quote, and i want to be precise in this mueller report at the end of that conversation when the president heard that mueller was going to launch his own special investigation, he said, and this is a quote in the mueller report, this is the end of my presidency. i'm -- and then he used the "f" word. >> i'm f'd. >> and he goes on and does this, and then mcgahn refuses time and time again. he didn't correct the "new york times" piece where the president wanted him to issue a correction, and -- and he didn't call rod. >> it wasn't a correction, we should point out. >> it wasn't a correction. >> it would have been a lie. >> he said it was true, and then he didn't -- he didn't ask rosenstein to fire mueller. the president was trying to do this, and i think time and time again people were -- were not listening to him, particularly his white house counsel, who understood the repercussions of it whereas the president either
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didn't care or didn't understand. >> and there are other examples in here. >> yes. >> of people saving the president from himself. >> um-hmm. >> one, largely forgotten figure k.t. mcfarland is mentioned in here. >> former deputy security adviser, one-time nominee to be ambassador to singapore and had to withdraw her nomination and she was asked to write what was seen as a misleading letter explaining something to michael flynn and she refuses to do it. again, there are several people, i mean, i think mcgahn is most prominent among them. >> yeah. >> sessions himself at times, you know, doesn't unrecuse. i mean, he's -- he's asked to unrecuse himself which would have been absurd. he doesn't do it, and, again, i think does the president a service by not unrecusing. >> and at the same time the
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president is tweeting why won't the justice department do what i want it to do for me and at some point i may have to get involved myself when we now know that he was trying to get involved, and he wash -- he was getting push back of the right kind from people who worked for him. >> very early on in this investigation back during the campaign, a source of mine said to me that a lot of evidence in in, and this is what intel agencies call open source. a lot of evidence is open source. it's public comments, and that goes both to the obstruction issue and also the collusion issue or just willingness to work with and communicate with russians. the president made public comments about this showing his support, and he already went to a degree that -- that previous presidential candidates were not willing to go, right? u.s. presidential candidates have been offered help by foreign powers before. not to go -- not to the play historian here, but hubert humphrey in 1968 and at lay stevenson in 1960. offered, no way. i want to be president but i'm not going to accept this help
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and what the special counsel does not exonerate the president of in the category of conspiracy, well, his teams, i should say, is of a willingness. they expected it would benefit them and they showed interest in this help. that's remarkable thing for the candidate. >> that's interesting, and for those just tuning in, i want to go over what we're doing right now. one of the things in the mueller report -- the mueller report focuses on two things, one is whether or not there was conspiracy. the solution there was not enough evidence of conspiracy between the russian government and anyone on the trump campaign or knowing american and the other question is obstruction of justice and whether or not president trump committed obstruction of justice in trying to hamper the mueller team. the fbi, whomever, from conducting this probably. let's reset the big takeaway so far in this redacted version of the mueller report, and we're going to go to evan perez and laura jarrett. laura, you have been focused on the obstruction of justice part of this report. what are the big takeaways?
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>> well, jake, one of the biggest takeaways is how mueller's team felt constrained by the legal situation here and department guidance on the fact that a sitting president cannot be indicted, and the special counsel's team explains that they are going to abide by that guidance, and they shay here, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment, and from that point on they lay out a litany, chapter and verse, very detailed granular episodes of essentially times when the president was putting on pressure on mostly now former officials in his administration to do things that they either refused to do or felt uncomfortable with in the case of the former white house counsel, don mcgahn, also former attorney general jeff sessions, a litany of episodes here of the president putting pressure on
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