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Justice Department Awaiting Mueller Report; Attorney General Says He May Notify Congress Of Special Counsel's "Principal Conclusions As soon As this Weekend"; DOJ Official: Special Counsel Conclusions "Expected To Be Made Public"; Rep. Eric Swalwell (D) California Is Interviewed About The Mueller Report; DOJ Official: No Additional Indictments Coming From Mueller. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 22, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Breaking news, I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. As the week ends all of Washington is waiting for the Mueller report and the White House is clearly worrying what it may contain. President Trump is trying to torpedo the special counsel's work again, calling it a witch hunt, insisting there was no collusion and no obstruction and warning if Mueller finds otherwise -- I'm quoting the president now -- "people will not stand for it."
I'll speak with Congressman John Garamendi and our correspondents and analysts are standing by.
First, let's go to Jim Acosta.
Jim, is doing his best to undermine the investigation.
What is the mood at the White House right now as we brace potentially for the imminent release?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I have been speaking to officials today and I spoke with a White House official a few moments ago. They are bracing for the Mueller report to drop this afternoon and this evening.
So we are waiting to find out what the special counsel Robert Mueller ends up delivering in terms of what he hands over to the attorney general.
Another curious piece of business this afternoon is the White House pool put out a note to reporters saying there's a dinner lid created, not to get into too much of the White House coverage jargon over here, but that essentially creates sort of a window for the president or perhaps somebody with the administration to come out and say something to reporters later on this evening, presumably in response to whatever happens with the Mueller report in the next several minutes. That does not necessarily mean it's a done deal that the president
would come out. It does create that kind of opening for him. We should point out, if it comes down as we are all expecting, the president was asked about this earlier this morning as he was heading out the door to Mar-a-lago where he will be for the weekend.
He was asked about his anticipation and what he expects to hear and what he knows right now. He said he didn't know much right now. He was waiting for it himself. At the same time, the president returned to many of those same talking points we've heard over and over again.
BLITZER: Can I interrupt you?
Evan Perez has the breaking news we have been waiting for.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The word is in. The Justice Department telling us Bill Barr has the report. The investigation is now over. So obviously it is a big moment for this White House. It is an investigation that has hung over the presidency of Donald Trump since its beginning, obviously.
The question is, what is in that report? We expect Barr will be viewing what Mueller found in their investigation and will tell Congress what he can tell them. We expect it will be a Bill Barr report, much less than what Robert Mueller provided in his investigation.
Let's step back a little bit. This has been one of the most fruitful investigations if you compare it to just an average Justice Department investigation. Let's go through that: 37 defendants, including six Trump associates that have been charged with crimes as a result of this investigation.
We have five people sentenced to prison so far and 16 Trump associates at least have been shown to have contacts with Russians as a result during the campaign or during the transition.
This is what Robert Mueller was tasked with investigating. We have to understand this is not a normal investigation. The big question is whether or not there was any evidence of collusion between people associated with the Trump campaign and Russians, whether the president was aware of any of that, whether there was any conspiracy to throw the election.
So far Robert Mueller has not charged that in any of the cases that have been made public.
So is there something related to collusion in the report that Mueller has turned in to Barr?
Is there any proof or evidence --
PEREZ: -- of obstruction of justice, any proof of crimes that he was not able to bring charges on?
That's the big question. Of course Bill Barr is going to review this report before he reports to Congress on exactly what Robert Mueller found.
BLITZER: Has the Justice Department issued a formal statement, saying the Mueller investigation has been completed and his report has been handed over to the new attorney general?
And have they done that with what they call a paper statement?
Are we anticipating a statement on camera from any of the principles, the attorney general or the special counsel, for example?
PEREZ: We do not expect that. We're just told this information by Justice Department officials that this investigation is now complete. The report from Robert Mueller has been received by the attorney general.
And so, look, again, this is an important moment for the Trump presidency. It is something they have been anticipating, the day they could finally say that the investigation has been completed. They can now move onto what is essentially going to be what they believe is going to be a political process.
It will be a fight over what are the contents of Robert Mueller's report, whether members of Congress will be able to see everything that Mueller found in his nearly two-year investigation. That will be something that will be a political and perhaps even a legal fight whether or not they will be able to see that.
For the moment, Bill Barr will review this and he will decide how much of it he can make public and how much of it he can turn over to members of Congress to review. That's something we are going to be waiting in the coming days to see exactly what that is.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by. Shimon Prokupecz is here.
What are you hearing?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: This is now over. There will be no more speculation, no more indictments from Mueller. Whether or not parts of this investigation that are still ongoing -- we know that the Department of Justice still has investigations they're pursuing, people they still want to question, open grand jury investigations related to this investigation.
But Robert Mueller is finished. We saw his team, our team that's outside the special counsel's office, we saw people leaving the office early today. We did not see Mueller going in though we believe he was at work today.
The big news here is this is now over.
Now it's about what will we see?
What will be the next steps in all of this?
What does the attorney general ultimately release to the public?
What does he ultimately release to members of Congress?
And the fight will ensue. We just don't have any information about this report, how many pages, what's in it. Those details will come at some point but the big news, this is over. Robert Mueller, all of his work, his team's work now they are done. They are moving on and we will see what the Department of Justice does and what the next steps will be in this investigation.
BLITZER: And we just have received the attorney general's letter to the leaders, the leadership in the House and the Senate. Let me read from this letter for our viewers. This is William Barr, the attorney general of the United States. And directs this letter to the respective chairmen of these various committees.
"I write to notify you pursuant to 28 C.F.R. that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters.
"In addition to this notification, the special counsel regulations require that I provide you with 'a description and explanation of instances (if any) in which the attorney general' or acting attorney general 'concluded that a proposed action by a special counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established departmental practices that it should not be pursued.'
"There were no such instances during the special counsel's investigation.
"The special counsel has submitted to me today a 'confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions' he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the special counsel's principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.
"Separately, I intend to consult with deputy attorney general Rosenstein and special counsel Mueller to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the special counsel regulations and the department's long-standing practices and policies and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review.
"Finally the special counsel regulations provide that 'the attorney general may determine that public release of' this notification 'would be in the public interest.' I have so determined and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you."
Pamela, you have been covering this from the very beginning. A pretty specific letter he has sent to the various chairmen: Lindsey Graham, Dianne Feinstein, Jerry Nadler and Doug Collins.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And that's lot of news in this letter. The big question is were there any requests that Mueller made to the
DOJ that were denied?
In this letter, the attorney general is saying that there were no such instances during the special counsel investigation. The reporters covering this had wondered was there ever a point where Mueller wanted to subpoena to sit down with the president?
He never had that sitdown interview with President Trump. According to this letter that did not happen apparently. That is big news.
Also he is saying he will brief the committees on the principle conclusions if significant. That was unclear as well.
What information would he provide the committees?
He had wide discretion under the special counsel regulations to determine what he wanted to share. Now he is saying the committees could learn as soon as this weekend about the principal conclusions of this investigation. Our request will it answer the principal question of this investigation, the collusion, was there collusion of any type between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign and obstruction of justice.
The president and his team have called this a witch hunt. You will likely see them say there were no charges related to collusion or obstruction of justice.
My question is, was there any conduct that was unindictable but that could be concerning and of interest to Congress?
There are a lot of unanswered questions but news coming from this letter.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It also says he may be in a position to advise you of the special counsel's principal conclusion as soon as this weekend.
SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A very quick turn around. I think if the attorney general understands that the faster you make this information public -- we are getting word that they let the White House know at 4:35 pm. It wasn't long they put the letter out to the public. Bill Barr understands intense public interest in this and he knows the best thing he can do is handle this as fast as possible.
PROKUPECZ: It is interesting, they are saying the report is comprehensive. I think it is important to know, we did not expect the Department of Justice to move so quickly in terms of revealing some of their findings. They are saying we may be able to do that this weekend. That is much faster, as Pam was pointing out, than we had anticipated.
It also -- they recognize how serious this is and maybe they will release more than we think. They understand the public interest.
BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin is with us, our chief legal analyst.
Jeffrey, this is a pretty specific letter to the respective chairmen and ranking members of House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: It is. And I believe as Pam said, there's a lot of news in this letter. The fact that Mueller was never thwarted by the DOJ s during this investigation. He never said I want to do X. I want to subpoena this person. I want to indict this person. I want to travel to this country and he was never told no.
So that is a very significant development with regard to his relationship with Rosenstein, who was his supervisor for the vast majority of his tenure.
Second, the idea that we will learn something about the conclusions of the Mueller report as early as this weekend is very significant and very interesting. I don't know what it means exactly. I don't know what a conclusion is.
Does that mean he is going to say there was no collusion?
Is he going to say we could have indicted President Trump if we were allowed to?
I don't know. Conclusions can mean a lot of different things. But, you know, this process is going to move somewhat faster, at least initially, than you would think. One other point which is, if it is true that this report is comprehensive as we are being advised, it is going to take a while to evaluate whether there is any classified information in it because you can't just send it to the classified information doctor. You have to give it to the CIA, to the National Security Agency.
Any organization whose work was used should be allowed to weigh in on whether it can be declassified. So I would think the process can't go that quickly but there is --
TOOBIN: -- it is certainly moving faster than I expected.
BORGER: There is also the possibility that this has already been scrubbed to a great degree. That is why Barr said he is going to release it.
What is interesting to me is that he said he is going to not only talk to Rosenstein but also Mueller to see what other information that he believes can and should be released. Of course they know at some point Mueller will be called to testify if you don't get the full story here.
So if you go back to Barr's confirmation hearing, he said I'm going to try to get as much information as I can out, consistent to the regulations and to the extent I have this discretion.
So it's vague but this is a comprehensive report and DOJ saying it is a comprehensive report. Front page isn't going to --
BLITZER: Well, he did say -- and, Jeffrey, let me just read those two little sentenced. "I remain committed to as much transparency as possible" and as early as this weekend will release the special counsel's, quote, "principle conclusions."
TOOBIN: That first statement you read is kind of circular. "I will release as much as I can if I can."
You know, it sort of begs the question of what are the restrictions because in certain respects, Rod Rosenstein wrote a letter last year to Chuck Grassley, who was the how many of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the time.
He said one of the bedrock principles is we never disclose information about people who've not been charged with crimes.
Well, if they honor that to the letter, then the amount of information they could release would be very small. But if they take a more expansive view, which Barr appears to be saying he wants to do, then maybe they'll release more information.
So he is giving with one hand and taking with the other but I think we just have to wait and see how much he actually does disclose and, more importantly, how much he does not disclose.
BLITZER: We're getting reaction from the White House. Jim Acosta's got a statement.
What are you learning?
ACOSTA: Yes, Wolf, a tweet from Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary and we don't have enough time to get a graphic ready.
It says "The next steps are up to attorney general Barr. We look forward to the process taking its course. The White House has not received or been briefed on the special counsel's report."
We know this, you know, leading up to this moment that the White House had sort of been in the dark on a lot of this, up until the moment of the delivery of the special counsel's report over to the attorney general at the Justice Department.
But that is the tweet from Sarah Sanders a few moments ago. Then Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, president's outside legal team, they have also put out a statement also just coming in.
It says, "We are pleased that the Office of Special Counsel has delivered its report to the attorney general pursuant to the regulations. Attorney general Barr will determine the appropriate next steps." Wolf, from talking to our sources, the anticipation from the White
House and from the president's outside legal team is that this report will have good news for the president, that he's not going to be implicated in any crimes. It won't say he should be indicted or impeached or anything like that.
The caution up until this point has been we don't know what we don't know.
We don't know what Robert Mueller has. Now that the special counsel report has been turned in, some of that information will make its way over to the White House, to the president's legal team. We should have some more clarity coming from Trump world as to how they are going to respond to all this.
But I thought it was very striking in the last several days to hear from Trump world, sources close to the White House, people inside the White House, inside the president's legal team, all starting to sound much more positive about this Mueller report.
The president has been sticking to his talking points, calling it a witch hunt. But those other voices that stay anonymous have been telling us privately they are starting to feel better and better about this.
As Pam Brown was saying, we don't know what it is that exists in the universe of possibilities coming out of this Mueller report. So when it goes up to Capitol Hill, Democrats may have a very different take on the findings in that report in terms of the positioning of the White House and the president's legal team right now.
BLITZER: As the attorney general says, the principal conclusions may be released as early as this weekend.
Laura, you were over there at the Justice Department.
BLITZER: What are folks telling you?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Quite the frenzy over here. We are learning that the report is very comprehensive, I'm told, for Justice officials, we have been asking for almost 10-15 minutes now. All we are told is that it is comprehensive and only a few select people have seen it.
You imagine the attorney general and the deputy attorney general, but a very small clutch over here who have been privy to it. Our understanding is that the White House was notified around 4:35 pm that the report has been delivered. It was delivered by a special counsel security official over to the deputy attorney general and immediately, within minutes, I'm told, transmitted to the attorney general's office, to give you a flavor of how quickly it transpired over here.
As for what comes next our understanding is Barr will be reviewing the findings. Then in consultation, as he says in his letter to Congress, he will be discussing with special counsel and the deputy attorney general about what exactly can be made public but reiterating as he has said in the past, that transparency is something that is important to him.
Just how far he is willing to go on that is the next battle on the horizon.
BLITZER: You have been waiting this report, as all of us have.
When he says that maybe as early as this weekend, the principle conclusions can be shared.
Does he mean they will be shared with Congress, with the American public, with the White House, all of the above?
JARRETT: I think we should assume he means with Congress. This was a letter to Congress. All along he has probably made, I think, most clear that he thinks that he can't share the actual report. That's a confidential report from the special counsel's officer under the regulation that comes directly to Bill Barr but he wanted to share as much as possible.
Our understanding is he will distill it in whatever ways he thinks is most appropriate within his discretion. He will then provide his principle conclusions. So I think it means we should all sit tight.
BLITZER: Will they be -- when he submits it to Congress, will it be submitting publically or on a confidential basis to Congress?
JARRETT: I think you should assume if he will submit it to Congress, it means everybody will find out about it. He understands that just as well as all of us do. When he submits it to Congress, he will submit it to all of us.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown, you're getting more information as well.
BROWN: Yes. We are told that from a source that the president is at Mar-a-lago with members of the White House counsel's office, including Pat Cipollone, White House counsel. That is notable because my reporting incidents the White House counsel's office intends to have the opportunity to review whatever Barr wants to release to Congress for executive privilege backhand.
And according to this letter from Barr, he intends on notifying Congress about the principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.
So the question, will the president and his lawyers be included in this process?
Will Barr bring them into this process backhand?
That is an open question.
I can tell you is that the president has publicly said let the people said see the report. Behind the scenes White House lawyers have been working up a legal strategy to keep as much of it private as possible. So Democrats have already said they'll subprime. There will be a fight. We may not see the full report early on. It is certainly a long fight ahead and ushers in a new chapter.
PEREZ: You have to wonder how complicated is this information that's in this report?
If he is willing, if the attorney general is willing to review it this weekend and possibly release information, perhaps there's a lot more than can come out than we initially thought.
I would think if there's a lot of classified information, things they can't release, they would be a little more hesitant and maybe waiting a little more before doing it. It could be why we have seen this delay.
We have been reporting this for weeks now that this was going to happen. It could be they were scrubbing and going through it for weeks now and finally determined what can we put together?
The other thing I want to make a point about is you can understand why the president is optimistic about that.
PROKUPECZ: Because so far when you look at the people, who have been indicted, no one has been incited for collusion in any aspect that affects the president directly. We've seen indictments for lying, for financial crimes, tax crimes.
No one in this investigation up to now -- and now that this is over we don't expect anyone else --
MURRAY: And the other difficult situation is that they did not do a sitdown interview with the president. They did not ask the president any questions regarding obstruction. On the one hand, the Justice Department --
MURRAY: -- isn't inclined to talk about people they decided not to bring charges against. But the president is not someone they felt they could bring charges against in the first place.
This is a political decision, whether to impeach, whether to remove the president from office. It was meant to be like that, not pursuing indictments.
This is the problem that Bill Barr is in. Congress does in some sense have a right to this investigation as they decide to make a decision about whether they think the president did something that was impeachment worthy.
The Justice Department might want to keep as much of this under wraps as possible. The White House certainly will. So I think that will be the difficult position we see all of these players going forward.
MURRAY: -- proceed I think we are going to see a lot more than we think. I think the fact that they are doing this this weekend and doing it as quickly as they are doing it, this line in this letter to Congress, "I may be in a position to advise as soon as this weekend," that's a big shocker for all of us.
BORGER: It may have to go through some kind of declassification process. But they may have already scrubbed it. Bob Mueller wasn't born yesterday. He knows that whatever he is submitting, no matter how comprehensive, is someday going to be out there. He has got to -- I'm sure that's what was going on, with scrubbing things and making sure there are no privilege issues that the White House could object to.
You know they are not going to tell us about declinations. We know how Rod Rosenstein felt about James Comey when he talked about Hillary Clinton. I think Mueller has been around Washington long enough to know, this is going to get out and he is going to brief the committees and, maybe, you know, maybe the attorney general won't have to issue a summary.
We don't have any idea at this point. If it is going to happen this quickly, I agree with Shimon. It may be that he is handing them over a comprehensive document that the American public can actually read. And that's he did all of his indictments.
MURRAY: I'm thinking about all of these indictments --
MURRAY: -- the major conclusions he's reached. We may essentially see an executive summary of all of these indictments he's brought. It's possible Congress will hear a boiled-down version --
BORGER: -- you know, what he has done in these indictments is he told the story of how this occurred and what happened and how the Russians interfered -- so he may tell the American public a story they have been waiting to hear for two years.
BLITZER: Manu Raju is up on Capitol Hill; he is getting reaction to this letter that was just sent to the respective chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committee.
What are you learning, Manu?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The House Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler just responded confirming he has been informed that the Mueller investigation is completed and saying that AG Barr has completed the special counsel investigation. We look forward to getting a full Mueller report and related materials. Transparency and the public interest demand nothing less. The need for public faith in the rule of law must be the priority.
Now what you'll hear from Democrats, including the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner, saying nothing short of providing all of the materials to the public will suffice.
He said in his statement exactly that. He said this needs to be swiftly declassified so nothing short of that will suffice.
Nadler and other Democrats have been pushing for not just the report to be released but also the underlying evidence of the report, the decisions about what to prosecute and what not to prosecute. They want that given to the public. They asking for perhaps a lot more than the White House may be willing to go for, perhaps more than Bill Barr may be willing to go for.
The House Judiciary Committee did get word from the Justice Department today just moments ago that this investigation was completed. They have not been told of any of the findings so far. The discussions have been relatively brief.
All that goes back to the letter that Barr sent, as soon as this weekend, the leaders of the key House and Senate Judiciary Committees may learn about the principle conclusions from Bill Barr.
So we'll wait to see the merits of this report. But the moment Democrats say, provide the full report and preserve any documents and if they don't, that's when we can expect a subpoena fight going forward.
BLITZER: There could be a significant court challenge.
Jeffrey Toobin, based on this letter that we have now all read multiple times from the Attorney General Bill Barr to these respective chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, can we draw any conclusions about the principal focus of what the Robert Mueller, Special Counsel investigation was all about? He was charged nearly two years ago with an authorization to investigate "any links and/or coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign," in other words so-called collusion. Can we draw any conclusions yet?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: Yes, we can draw the conclusion that he's going to tell Congress what he found. I mean, it is true as Gloria and others have been pointing out that in the legal papers, in the indictments that Mueller has told a story but he has told an incomplete story. He has not said whether the Trump campaign was involved with the Russian government or Russian interest. He has not said one way or the other and I think he's obliged to answer that question.
And so I think he is going to express some sort of conclusion there. And remember too the whole reason that Mueller was appointed by Rod Rosenstein was the firing of James Comey and Mueller has not said whether he believes that the President obstructed justice by firing James Comey and all of the related activities. I think he owes Congress an answer on those questions.
So I do think the principal conclusions will have to be was there any sort of conclusion and was there obstruction of justice. We don't know the answers to that yet.
SARA MURRAY, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: And I think as Toobin points out, yes, these indictments have - they have told a story, they have been very complete, but there were in addition to this question of whether the President obstructed justice big questions in some of these cases that remain unanswered. They've charged Roger Stone with lying about his attempts to get in touch with WikiLeaks. They've never said whether they actually believe that Roger Stone was successfully in touch with WikiLeaks or got any information from that. They certainly haven't charged him with it.
In the Paul Manafort case, they suggested that he was colluding with the Russians in various courtroom instances. They also said that he was sharing polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik. They didn't charge him with any of these things. They didn't charge him with conspiracy.
They charged him with financial crimes, so they never fully sort of closed this loop on whether they believe that Paul Manafort in his role of the Trump campaign was also colluding with Russians in some way. They sort of dropped these breadcrumbs but it will be very interesting and I think Congress certainly has every right to demand the answers to those questions.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER, CNN: I don't know that Mueller will even reach those conclusions, right?
MURRAY: He may not.
PROKUPECZ: This is a criminal investigation. His whole point was investigating crimes whether or not I can bring charges, whether or not I can indict people, whether or not there's more investigative steps that I need to take for criminal reasons. What the President may have done here, who he was communicating with, who Roger Stone was communicating with, that may be a political issue here. That's not for Robert Mueller to decide or his team or the FBI to decide.
So we may see some of that here. We may see just instances where there was not enough to prove this. There was not enough to prove that, so we didn't pursue charges here. We decline. We don't want to see a repeat, certainly the Attorney General does not want to see repeat of the James Comey situation, what he stood up and he went through everything that Hillary Clinton did bad. This Attorney General, this Department of Justice, this FBI does not want to go through.
GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well, we know Rod Rosenstein. PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: But he's just
going to go through that, but he has not - I mean, during his confirmation hearing, Bill Barr did not answer the question of what he would do. He wasn't asked actually what he would do with any impeachable information again if there was conduct in the report that's unindictable that he couldn't bring charges against this person for whatever reason, but that's concerning or derogatory. So we don't know what he's going to do if there is that kind of information in the report, particularly as it pertains to the President.
BORGER: But we do know what Congress is going to do, because Mark Warner, who's the co-chairman, I guess, of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a Vice Chairman of Senate Intelligence Committee put out a statement and just said, "The Special Counsel's report must be provided to Congress immediately. The Attorney General should swiftly prepare a declassified version for the public. Nothing short of that will suffice."
MURRAY: So we're in for a fight.
BORGER: So you're in for a fight.
BLITZER: Yes. Evan Perez is getting some more information as well. Evan, what else are you learning?
EVAN PEREZ, SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, Wolf, I think one of the things that we want to step back and talk about a little bit is the fact that, yes, as Jeffrey and as some of the others have talked about, the Special Counsel has not proved the one thing that everybody has been expecting which is whether or not there was any collusion or something that looks like collusion, something that looks like a conspiracy.
But let's step back and look at the fact that of the 199 counts that the Special Counsel has charged, in this investigation if you look at 37 people and entities charged, seven people who pleaded guilty, five people who've been sentenced and the most important one of those is the chairman of the campaign who was facing charges, was tried in Alexandria, Virginia. He was found guilty over there. He pleaded guilty here in Washington.
And one of the most curious things in that case was the fact that the Special Counsel said that there was at the center of this investigation was this curious - essentially ties that Paul Manafort, the chairman of the campaign had with Konstantin Kilimnik. This is what the Special Counsel said was a Russian operative. There was a lot of sort of hocus-pocus and a lot of like insinuation that there was something that went on there, that the Special Counsel really never explained.
And so one of the questions we have at this point is still weather this report will address those questions, whether this is something that the FBI is going to keep investigating as part of their counterterrorism mission, what comes in their counterintelligence mission to see what the Russians were up to with Paul Manafort or with anyone else or what was that about. I think those are some very big questions that remain open that the Special Counsel has not answered at least not in public.
And so we're going to be waiting to see whether or not that is answered in his report, which I again Laura Jarrett has been told is a comprehensive report, does it get into that, does it tell us more about what exactly Paul Manafort, what Roger Stone and what some of these other people were doing. Again, remember the reason why this investigation happened was because there were all of these curious connections, people associated with the campaign as many as 16 of them, people associated with the Trump campaign had contacts with Russians and that made the FBI very suspicious. That's one reason why this investigation has gone on.
We don't know exactly what happened with all of those context.
BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, hovering over all of these and William Barr, the Attorney General, has been very, very precise during his confirmation hearing, especially that he's going to deal with all of this. He wants as much transparency as possible within Justice Department guidelines. Now, one of those guidelines is that a sitting President of the United States can't be indicted. A second guideline is if you're not going to formally charge someone criminally, you can't release a lot of damaging information about that private American citizen and that's going to be hovering over his decision how much to release publicly, right?
TOOBIN: Well, if you believe both of those principles that you just described, Donald Trump is a kind of heads I win tails you lose situation, that you can't indict me and you can't say anything bad about me either. Now, I find it hard to believe that that will be the principle that governs the release of these documents, but it does underline the challenge that Barr will face in addressing these issues.
Look, we saw from the statement from Senator Warner from Virginia and even Republicans are going to be saying similar things, is that let's see what the conclusions are. So Mueller, the idea that we are going to simply learn nothing about Donald Trump's behavior just seems inconceivable to me at this point, especially since the obstruction of justice investigation was the reason he was appointed in the first place. I mean he was appointed immediately after James Comey was fired.
BORGER: So Jeffrey let me ask you a question.
TOOBIN: I'm sorry, go ahead Gloria.
BORGER: If for example you're not going to report declinations, people you've decided not to prosecute, et cetera. And remember when after Donald Trump was referred to as individual one at one point and his legal team went ballistic about it. So the question is, is the President in any way shape or form even going to be mentioned in these documents. It seems hard to me to believe he wouldn't be. TOOBIN: It's just inconceivable to me that he wouldn't be. I mean
it's the whole reason you had to appoint a Special Counsel because there was a conflict of interest with the President of the United States. So he has to be mentioned, but that tension between not disparaging non-charged people which was, of course, I believe Evan said that the whole issue with James Comey and Hillary Clinton sort of denouncing her, but not indicting her that tension of how you release information about an uncharged person is a challenge here and certainly Mueller himself had to be aware of it in writing the report.
But the issue of the President's conduct is obviously central to the reason Mueller was appointed in the idea that we simply will have him ignored in this report is just inconceivable to me.
BORGER: I agree with you, actually.
BLITZER: Laura Jarrett is over at the Justice Department. She's speaking to officials over there. What else are you learning, Laura?
LAURA JARRETT, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Wolf, one of the issues was whether those principal conclusions that the Attorney General Bill Barr is planning to put together and submit to Congress would be made public. I know you had asked about that and so I asked about it and that will be made public. The expectation is that it will be made public knowing that Congress is going to see it, the public will see it as well, so that's just to answer one of the looming questions out there.
The other one that we had is whether the White House has actually seen anything and I'm told that at least at this hour, the White House has not seen the report. However, the Attorney General's Chief of Staff called over to the White House, spoke to Emmet Flood, the top lawyer over there who's been running the Russia investigation at least on that side of the aisle and he has read the letter that Bill Barr eventually did send to Congress so he was informed about everything that was happening, but that the White House does not have the report at this hour, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me read a statement, a joint statement that was just released Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House. "Now that Special Counsel Mueller has submitted his report to the Attorney General, it is imperative for Mr. Barr to make the full report public and provide its underlying documentation of findings to Congress. Attorney General Barr must not give President Trump his lawyers or his staff any 'sneak preview' of the Special Counsel Muller's findings or evidence, and the White House must not be allowed to interfere in decisions about what parts of those findings or evidence are made public."
The statement adds, "The Special Counsel's investigation focused on questions that go to the integrity of our democracy itself: whether foreign powers corruptly interfered in our elections and whether unlawful means were used to hinder the investigation. The American people have the right to the truth. The watchword is transparency." PROKUPECZ: I think we're going to get it out of here in some ways.
MURRAY: Yes. I mean if Bill Barr has watched, I mean, he's smart enough to know that he will be also questioned about his interactions with the White House ...
PROKUPECZ: I still go back to this line.
BROWN: This is a hint though to the looming fight as you see in this letter saying do not give a sneak preview to the President or his staff. Well, the President and his staff are expecting a sneak preview.
PROKUPECZ: Yes, that's right as you've reported, right.
MURRAY: He didn't get it.
BROWN: As we've reported anything was publically ...
BLITZER: Well, let me get back to Laura, because Laura I just want to be precise, when you say you expect it to be made public all of the nation that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are demanding or a sort of a sanitized version of it?
JARRETT: It's not even close to all the information they're demanding. They want to see the whole report and the underlying facts and all of the juicy details. That is not what we're talking about here, what is being described is something much more closer due to the executive summary that the Attorney General had previewed in his Senate testimony and as we've all been reporting the expectation has been all along is that he will distill it, he will figure out what he thinks is able to be transmitted to the Congress and by extension the public and then there will be an enormous fight about whether that is enough that will likely go to the courts.
So when I say the expectation is that it will be made public, it's only the part that Bill Barr is promising to give Congress here, which is the principal conclusions as soon as this weekend. That's the part that will be made public, not the report itself, not the part that they really want to see which is what did Mueller say to Bill Barr.
BLITZER: And certainly not all of the underlying documentation. Go ahead, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: The thing you can be sure of and I think Pam zeroed in on it, the real focus of controversy here which is this issue of the sneak preview. Because the White House lawyers are going to want to say, "Look, we want to be able to assert executive privilege, so we have to see it before it's released." But you know for a fact that the minute that goes to the White House, the President is going to start tweeting about what a vindication this report is. So the President is going to see this thing before anyone else and be
able to shape public perceptions before anyone else gets to see it. And I think that's something that the Democrats may be concerned about, but I don't know that they can do anything about it.
BORGER: Well, I think the minute Barr decides to do what he wants to do whether it's an executive summary, it becomes a political document and the Democrats will say if it is just a summary, "Where is this? Where is that? We want to we want to know the whole story?" As you saw Mark Warner say and Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, and they're going to have a fight on their hands. The President can claim - he can read it any time he wants by the way. I mean he's the President of the United States.
PROKUPECZ: So I wonder if this report, the principal conclusions - hey, Evan, if the principal conclusions here are that the President did nothing wrong, does that get - is that something that the Attorney General puts out?
PROKUPECZ: That's important because of everything that has gone in the past two years.
BLITZER: He doesn't even have to go that far. If the Attorney General simply says no collusion, the President will see that as a huge vindication.
BORGER: I don't think he'd use the word.
PROKUPECZ: I mean, is that something he can do?
MURRAY: But collusion is illegal.
PEREZ: Right. I do think that - I think from the President's standpoint, I think you're going to hear no collusion pretty quickly, Wolf, no matter what simply because we know that there's not been any charges brought with ...
BLITZER: But a sitting President can't be charged.
PEREZ: Well, what I mean is when he talks about no collusion he means about anybody and so that's one of the questions that has been hanging over him. And so from now on, he's going to be able to say, "See, I told you so."
BLITZER: Well, remember what Rudy Giuliani, the President's lawyer, at one point said there was no collusion between the President and the Russians, I'm not talking he said about the campaign. He suggested there may have been --
PEREZ: I think Rudy I think Rudy has done a very good job of trying to cover all of the bases. He's trying to make sure he had an answer for everything. But here's the deal, one of the things I think Laura Jarrett and I have talked to Justice Department officials about is the fact that they have set a precedent of some kind in the last couple of years by releasing a lot of the underlying information in the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
And so inside the Justice Department there's a lot of concern that they've created a precedent that some judge is going to apply when it comes time to trying to get some of the underlying product of this investigation. I think that's one of the concerns that they have. Bill Barr can do his Bill Barr report. He can try to distill this and produce a version of this that he believes should be made public. The question is the underlying parts of this report, how much of that eventually goes to Congress, becomes public as a result of a legal fight, that's the big question.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to get a lot more information. I know everybody is working their sources, right now I want to get reaction to these dramatic developments. Democratic Representative Eric Swalwell of California is joining us. He's on both the Intelligence and the Judiciary Committees. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. So tell us what you're looking for maybe as early as this weekend when you're going to get what the Attorney General says the principal conclusions of this report?
REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D-CA) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good evening, Wolf. We want the full report. We want it now. We want it before the President is going to get it or able to make any edits or any retractions on it.
BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt, why should the Congress, the legislative branch get it before the executive branch, before the President of the United States himself?
SWALWELL: The President is a subject. He's a subject of the investigation. He has an inherent conflict of interest. There's an honor code in our country that Presidents when they're subjects of investigations, back off, that they follow the rule of law and so it's really inappropriate that he would even touch this. If he didn't do anything wrong, he would keep his hands off it, say the public can read every word, every sentence, every comma, every period, he's not going to do that and I think that's going to taint its release.
BLITZER: Do you have full confidence in the Attorney General Bill Barr that he will give you members of Congress as much information from this report as he possibly can within legal guidelines.
SWALWELL: With Mr. Barr, look, I'll trust but we have to verify. So we will ultimately see the full report because the President is outnumbered. We have now the subpoena power and a judiciary that will uphold the precedents from the Nixon era. However, I also think we will probably have to hear from Bob Mueller himself. I don't know how we could just accept it at Mr. Barr's word without the lead investigator telling us whether he was limited in any way or whether there were lines that he wanted to pursue that he was not able to. I think the American people will need to hear from Mr. Mueller. BLITZER: What will the Democrats do if the Attorney General declines
to make everything, all of the documentation, all of the background, everything in his nearly two-year investigation available to Congress?
SWALWELL: We'll fight and we'll win, Wolf, because the American people voted to put a balance of power over these abuses of power. So we have the subpoena power now. We have the courts that will back us up. And also, I just want to say this, Wolf, I do not want to hear from a President who is unwilling to go under oath as a subject of this investigation attack a report where others so willingly did go under oath. He has no credibility. The state of the evidence will not include his testimony and so anything he says about it I think should be deemed irrelevant.
BLITZER: Will Democrats subpoena the Special Counsel Robert Mueller if necessary to come before Congress and testify?
SWALWELL: That's a decision for Chairman Nadler. It's my personal view that the report will not be fully accepted by the American people until we hear from Bob Mueller.
BLITZER: Were you surprised that additional indictments weren't handed down as this nearly two-year investigation has now concluded?
SWALWELL: I have been surprised by anything in this investigation, Wolf, and that there have been dozens of indictments already.
People have gone to jail, people are on their way to jail, and I don't know if other work has been farmed off to other offices like the Southern District of New York with respect to Michael Cohen. So I will accept the Mueller report if I hear it from Mr. Mueller because I have respect for the rule of law and I know my fellow colleagues do. But this is a test for the rule of law in our country right now. It's had a wrecking ball taken to it and what we do next will determine whether it still stands.
BLITZER: Do you accept the current Justice Department guideline that a sitting President of the United States cannot be indicted?
SWALWELL: That's their guidelines, wolf. I don't accept though that a President should escape criminal liability by being reelected or running out the statute of limitations. What we will do and we are working on this will put in place a law in Congress and hopefully the Senate passes it too that would say that the statute would not run if a President is not indicted because a DOJ policy.
I don't see how he does not have indictments waiting for him, considering that he is individual one and considering the conduct that Michael Cohen talked about when he came to Congress and testified.
BLITZER: But if there's no indictment, no criminal charge, the other Justice Department guideline is you don't release negative information about someone who is in charge. SWALWELL: Right. And that's a guideline that I think we're going to
fight because we have the subpoena power. For two years when I was on the Judiciary Committee, we saw the Republicans subpoena every single document relating to the Clinton investigation where Secretary Clinton was not charged and they had all of that aired out. And so we warn them and Adam Schiff was very over and over on the Intelligence Committee, "You are setting a President that you will have to live by later." And now they're going to have to live by that while we have a President of the United States, an even greater figure in our democracy under investigation.
So the American People, they will see all of this, Wolf, it's just a matter of when.
BLITZER: But at the time you strongly condemn, I'm talking about the Democrats, the then FBI James Comey for releasing all of that damaging information about Hillary Clinton even though she was informally charged.
SWALWELL: Others may have done that. I did not condemn James Comey when he did that. I'm a former prosecutor and I actually - I understand the reasoning that went in, in the position that he was in. I was not among those, Wolf. But what I will say is that what they did later on the House Judiciary Committee in the years after the election was over, that was a private citizen who was not in office and they are going back in time to look at that conduct.
We're not dealing with a private citizen here. We're dealing with a President who makes National Security decisions everyday that affect us. I think the American want to know whether this President violated conduct, whether he violated not only the law but that honor code that we all count on and whether he needs to be held accountable.
BLITZER: Congressman Swalwell, thanks so much for joining. You guys are going to be very, very busy in the coming days.
SWALWELL: Oh, yes.
BLITZER: Probably as early as this weekend when this principal conclusions are going to be sent from the Attorney General over to Congress. Thanks very much for joining us.
SWALWELL: Of course, my pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Laura Jarrett is over at the Justice Department and getting more information. What else, Laura, are you learning?
JARRETT: Wolf, one big piece of news that we've just received here is the Special Counsel Robert Mueller is not recommending any further indictments. Now, obviously that's a significant development as there has been many looming questions out there, many open question marks I should really say about whether we would see any more any superseding indictments, but I'm told no further recommendations of any indictments whatsoever.
So it is as if when we see the principal conclusions that Bill Barr eventually submit his distillation to Congress that we will see any mention of any recommendations of any indictments. I'm told that that is not happening, so we can to rest that speculation once and for all, Wolf.
BLITZER: That doesn't necessarily mean that other U.S. attorneys in the Southern District of New York or the U.S. attorney here in Washington, D.C. or Northern Virginia, they can pursue legal action, right?
JARRETT: Absolutely, and we should make that point that there are suddenly been spin offs so to speak from much of Mueller's work. We've seen him already farming out certain cases here to the D.C. U.S. Attorney's office, also in the Eastern District of Virginia and, of course, the Southern District of New York which is handling the Michael Cohen investigation.
So we have seen outputs from his investigation, but we are not going receive any further recommendations from about the core work of his mandate which was Russian interference in the election, obstruction of Justice, all of those issues were really central to what he was put here to do, no further indictments on that front, Wolf.
BLITZER: From the Special Counsel, but presumably some of those who were brought before Grand Jury, some individuals who have not been indicted, they can't necessarily completely breathe easily because there could be indictments coming from these other U.S. attorneys.
JARRETT: Well, certainly anybody who is currently been before a Grand Jury, anyone who has lied, they are certainly in jeopardy. That is certainly not off the table here.
But in terms of any fresh indictments, any fresh investigative work, that is all been put to rest.
BLITZER: Shimon, you've been watching this from day one, and you're watching the drama unfold even as we speak.
PROKUPECZ: Yes. And this line that we're getting now from this justice official that Laura Jarrett is talking to is probably one of the most significant pieces of information in all of these, because there's been so much speculation from everywhere. A lot of pundits, certainly. People on both sides, the Democrats, Republicans, all speculating. Certainly a lot of people speculating more is coming. Robert Mueller is going to indict this one. That's not happening. It's very clear and I think that is a very important point.
And I think what you said, Wolf, the fact that this is now - there are parts of this investigation, as we've said - Evan talked earlier about curious connections, there are a lot of curious connections. The FBI is going to continue to investigate those curious connections. That's not ending anytime soon. There's an entire counterintelligence investigation into Russia. There are other people certainly that are involved that they're investigating. So the investigation itself in terms of other parts of this is not
over, but it's very important. It's a very important line and there's a reason why they're saying this. No other indictments from Robert Mueller.
BLITZER: So can we assume - and I'll ask Jeffrey, can we assume there are - yes, Jeffrey.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean let's be specific, this is really good news for a lot of people around Donald Trump; Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Jerome Corsi, the writer who had a draft indictment presented to him by Mueller's office and they decided not to go forward with this. I mean, this is - let's be fair here. I mean, there has been a lot of suspicion around certain people and a lot of negative things have been said, an amputation of criminal activity and Mueller has said, "I am not proceeding." And there is no better news to receive than you are not being indicted by the United States government.
BLITZER: Jeffrey, you once worked as a prosecutor, so when the senior justice official tells Laura Jarrett the Special Counsel is not recommending any further indictments, can we conclude there have been no sealed indictments that would be unsealed at some point down the road?
TOOBIN: Well, boy, Wolf, you're like a lawyer. That's an interesting question. I think the answer is we can assume that. I mean that is a very good follow-up question, but I think that would be very coy if no further indictments. That in plain English it means to me that there are no further --
PEREZ: That's not the way Robert Mueller behaves.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask Laura Jarrett that same question. Laura, it's your reporting. The Special Counsel is not recommending any further indictments. As far as you know have there been sealed indictments that potentially down the road for whatever reason could be unsealed?
JARRETT: Wolf, I was channeling you, I asked that very same question. I press them at length, sealed, unsealed in any form, you're telling me this is not coming down the pike in any way in the coming weeks and months, and I was told unequivocally, no. It's done.
PEREZ: That's a big deal.
TOOBIN: And also Wolf, you also mentioned about perjury. If Robert Mueller thought that witness has committed perjury, he would have charged it.
BORGER: Right. TOOBIN: Because he didn't charge several people with making false
statements. So I know there are Democrats out there who want to keep the Mueller investigation alive until Malia Obama is running for president. But it's over, I mean, this investigation is over.
BORGER: And don't forget --
TOOBIN: And the Southern District will continue and that's significant. But Mueller investigation is over.
BORGER: Right. And don't forget that this is a President who has been tweeting, talking whatever about witch hunt ...
PEREZ: Hundred seventy-five times.
BORGER: ... thank you very much, Evan. He's been doing that for the last two years ever since James Comey almost two years to the day testified before Congress that the FBI had opened an investigation into potential Russian collusion. So if, as Jeffrey is saying, they get great news. The great news is, first of all, there is no more indictments. But if suddenly the President has to say those angry Democrats, who were working with Bob Mueller, were actually just part of the Justice Department doing its job, after he has criticize the Justice Department --
PEREZ: And he's been vindicated by them essentially.
BORGER: And then he's now vindicated, exactly, how do you manage that politically? I mean, we obviously can't jump the gun here. We have to see what comes out from Barr and what's in the report. But if I'm at Mar-a-Lago with the President as Pamela has been reporting, the lawyers are ...
PEREZ: Feeling good.
BORGER: ... that I would be very happy.
BROWN: Yes, absolutely.
And let's not forget, I mean, I know we've said it but this investigation is over and the President never sat down for an interview with Robert Mueller. That is huge.