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THE SITUATION ROOM

What Mueller Found?; Breaking Down William Barr's Process; Attorney General William Barr Just Left the Justice Department; President at Florida Resort Playing Golf; House Democrats Held an Emergency Strategy Session; A Closer Look at Robert Mueller and the Key Roles He's Played at DOJ; Reaction From the Kremlin About the End of the Investigation That's Been so Focused on Russia. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired March 23, 2019 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM, CNN: Breaking news. What Mueller found? The President, Congress and the nation, they're all waiting to learn the bottom line of the Special Counsel's report. We're getting new hints that the timeline for revealing secret findings from the Russia investigation.

Under the Barr. The Attorney General has been reviewing Mueller's report all day, deciding what he can share and what he'll keep under wraps. We're breaking down William Barr's process, as he bores in on Mueller's principal conclusions.

Waiting to exhale. The President is at his Florida resort, standing by for specifics on the investigation he's railed against for nearly two years. Are the lawyers he brought with him encouraging him to stay silent?

And ready to respond. House Democrats just held an emergency strategy session on their demands for full disclosure of the Mueller report. Tonight, they're escalating their threat of subpoenas if they and the American people don't get the information they want.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the roll-out of Robert Mueller's confidential report on the Russia investigation. But the Attorney General, William Barr, just left the Justice Department where he's been holed up all day pouring over Mueller's findings. Barr has promised to share the principal conclusions with Congress as soon as this weekend.

House Democrats held an emergency conference call on their demand for full disclosure and their game plan, once they hear from Barr, possibly tomorrow. The President has been playing golf down in Florida, staying off Twitter, at this critical moment. Americans now poised to learn more about what Mueller has and hasn't uncovered.

This hour, I'll talk with the Senate Judiciary Committee member Richard Blumenthal and our correspondents and analysts are also standing by for this special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

First, let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent, Pamela Brown. Pamela, we haven't heard from the President about the delivery of the Mueller report, at least not yet.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. We are just learning at this hour that the Attorney General Bill Barr is leaving the Justice Department after spending nine hours there today, scrutinizing and analyzing the confidence report from Robert Mueller. In fact, we could find out those principal conclusions as soon as tomorrow. But in the wake of the delivery of that report, the President has been uncharacteristically quiet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN (voice-over): As the President spent the day on a Florida golf course, the Attorney General spent the day reading a report that could define Donald Trump's Presidency. Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were both in the office today, reviewing Mueller's findings. Barr telling lawmakers he could release the principal conclusions of the report to them as soon as this weekend.

Tonight, as the wait for information continues, Justice Department officials say one thing is clear, there will be no more indictments related to the Russia probe. The White House seizing on that as a victory. President Trump attending a Republican fundraiser Friday, seated next to Senator Lindsey Graham who went on the attack against the other candidate in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, saying, "We're going to make sure both campaigns are looked at," prompting chants of "lock her up" from other attendees.

The President came to Florida flanked with his legal team, bringing along White House lawyer Emmet Flood who's responsible for the response to the Russia investigation. And just hours before the announcement that Mueller was finished--

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no collusion, there was no obstruction. Everybody knows it. It's all a big hoax, which I call it the witch-hunt. It's all a big hoax.

BROWN (voice-over): President Trump continued his attacks on the investigation, telling Fox Business Americans will not accept a negative review.

TRUMP: It's always interesting to me because a deputy that didn't get any votes appoints a man that didn't get any votes, he's going to write a report on me. People will not stand for it.

BROWN (voice-over): Even though the President did call for the release of the report this week--

TRUMP: Let it come out. Let people see it. That's up to the Attorney General--

BROWN (voice-over): Barr has previously refused to commit to providing Congress with a full report and said that DOJ rules prevent him from sharing damaging information about individuals not charged with crimes.

WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: All I can say right now is, my goal and intent is to get as much information out as I can, consistent with the regulation.

BROWN (voice-over): But Democrats are demanding the report be made public in its entirety and have threatened a subpoena to get it.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER: The American people have a right to the truth. The watch word is transparency. In conclusion, the President himself has called, without qualification, for the report to be made public. There is no reason on God's green earth why Attorney General Barr should do any less.

BROWN (voice-over): White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders saying late Friday that the Attorney General is in control of what happens next, tweeting, "The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr, and we look forward to the process taking its course. The White House has not received or been briefed on the Special Counsel's report."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: And at last check with the White House, that is still the case. The White House has still not been briefed on Mueller's confidential report. But the President is down in Mar-a-Lago still. Wolf, he is there with top advisors, top White House lawyers, who are cautioning, "Wait and see, let's find out more about what's in this report before spiking the football." Wolf.

BLITZER: Pamela, I want to bring Shimon Prokupecz, our Justice Reporter as well. They've got the reportings. He spent, what, nine hours at the Justice Department, the Attorney General Bill Barr, today, reviewing it. There clearly is a sense of urgency right now.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: And I think that's what's so surprising that there is this sense of urgency. We've been given indications this is going to take maybe up to two weeks for them to go through this to figure out what they can release. This is - they're trying to move along here as fast as they can because I do think there are some positive signs here in terms of what Bill Barr wants to do here, the Attorney General. It does appear that he wants to try to be very transparent.

The thing is this - if we're led to believe as he's saying that this is a comprehensive report, there's going to be a lot of information. So his team, the Deputy Attorney General's team, they need to go through all of this to try and figure out how they can distill it, what's classified, what's not, what are they OK with releasing. That's a very long process. And I'm sure they'll spend most of the morning tomorrow doing the same thing before they release it.

BLITZER: Pamela, your source tells you that there - that no one around the President seems to be panicking, there's no war room right now. What does that tell you? BROWN: Yes. In fact, the President was out golfing today with Kid

Rock, according to a picture that Kid Rock had tweeted. I think clearly the President trying to send this message that he is not worried. And in talking to White House officials, there is certainly this feeling of, look - in some ways, they feel like this was vindication, like they won here. And the President seemed very relaxed today, clearly.

But I am told that there is still a level of anxiousness about what is in this report because there could very well be unseemly allegations in the report, information about the President, about the campaign. The White House at this stage still doesn't know. And that is why you're seeing this wait-and-see approach right now, and that is why the President is being so quiet in response.

BLITZER: And Shimon, CNN is now learning about yet another allegation, serious allegation being leveled at the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who's about to spend 7 1/2 years in jail.

PROKUPECZ: Yes. This is a bit of head-scratching, Wolf, because what prosecutors say, there was a new court filing. They're saying that in the forfeiture, the money that they are demanding that Paul Manafort as a result of his guilty plea and convictions is now forfeited, millions of dollars.

BLITZER: Eleven million dollars.

PROKUPECZ: Eleven million dollars. They're trying to get it. So a shell company, some company has come forward and said, hey, we're entitled to $1 million of that. Well, prosecutors now are saying they need to investigate because they think that the shell company may be associated with Paul Manafort. It was created during the investigation. As Mueller was investigating Paul Manafort, this shell company was created. So now they're trying to figure out whether or not Paul Manafort is behind this.

BLITZER: It's a very serious allegation indeed. Shimon, Pamela, guys, don't go too far away. I know you're both working your sources.

Also tonight, House Democrats are wrapping up the threat of subpoenas after holding an emergency conference call on the Mueller report. Our Senior Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju, is up on Capitol Hill.

Manu, Democrats, they're demanding full disclosure of the entire Mueller report. They want it all made public, nothing classified. What are you hearing about the strategy they discussed today?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They want everything public, including the underlying evidence. And Nancy Pelosi made clear to her members in this private conference call that she wouldn't even accept a classified briefing over the sensitive information in the Mueller report. She said that any briefing needs to be unclassified,

they need to have a public testimony to grill some of these officials, and they need to see everything that Mueller found. Now, one thing that Democrats made very clear in documents that were

circulated to their members today that they would potentially even go as far as issuing subpoenas to demand all that information. This is what they said in their talking points. They said, if necessary, Democrats would be prepared to use its subpoena authority to obtain the full report and underlying evidence, as well as to obtain briefing and testimony from the Special Counsel, the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, and other necessary officials.

Now, these 11 Democrats, including six House Democratic Chairmen, sent letters on Friday to the heads of various agencies, including the White House Counsel's office, including the FBI, the Justice Department, demanding they preserve those records, warning if any records were destroyed, potentially that could constitute a crime.

Now, the question, Wolf, is what Democrats will do if the Democrats - if the Justice Department does not ultimately comply and they are unsuccessful in pushing forward on their subpoenas? But Nancy Pelosi made clear that a summary of the findings would not be sufficient. She said that - in a letter to her colleagues today, she said, "The Attorney General's offer to provide the committees with a summary of the report's conclusions is insufficient. Congress requires a full report and the underlying documents so that the committee is going to proceed with their independent work, including oversight, and legislating to address any issues the Mueller report may raise."

So, as you can see, Wolf, a lot of anxiety, but the buildup intensifying. If Democrats, they don't get what they want, that's going to be a fight that could consume weeks and months here on Capitol Hill.

BLITZER: It certainly could. It could wind up in court. As well, if the report effectively vindicates the President, Manu, do Democrats run the potential risk of pursuing the President too aggressively?

RAJU: That's certainly a risk that Democrats have been aware of for some time. Nancy Pelosi has tried to essentially tamp down calls for an impeachment. Also, you have not seen so far Democrats issue many subpoenas even though they've been in power for more than three months now. There have only been a handful that had been issued because of the fact that they're worried about the prospect of overreaching. They've been trying to build the case for what they believe is White House intransigence and they eventually move forward with subpoenas.

So they believe that they are going to push forward on things that where the public is on their side such as the disclosure of the Mueller report. Republican opinion does show that overwhelmingly Republicans and Democrats want to see the report. But if they're viewed as overreaching, investigating in things that Mueller has already looked into, that's where they run the political risk.

And that's why it's so important for Democrats, they say, to see what Mueller found so they can see what holes that they need to plug, what they want to investigate further. The question is, they have to sell to the public what they're doing. That's going to be one of their challenges in the weeks ahead, Wolf. BLITZER: Huge challenge, indeed.

Manu, thank you very much. Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill.

Let's get some more on all the breaking news. Senator Richard Blumenthal is joining us. He's a Democrat who serves on the Judiciary and the Armed Services committees.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us. And as you know, the principal conclusions from the Mueller report could be made available to you, to Congress, to the American public as early as tomorrow. But many lawmakers want to see, what I described as, the underlying facts as well. Why is that evidence so important to you?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We understand the plan is currently to provide those principal conclusions from William Barr to us sometime tomorrow afternoon. But those conclusions are completely inadequate if there's a substitute for the findings and evidence.

The American people really deserve the Mueller report, not the Barr report. They paid for this investigation. They deserve to see all the findings. And the reason is, quite simply, first of all, the Mueller investigation has already revealed deeply serious wrongdoing. There may be no indictment of the President. That--

BLITZER: By the way, we're showing our viewers Bill Barr just arriving at his home. He spent more than nine hours over at the Justice Department reviewing the Mueller report.

Go ahead, Senator.

BLUMENTHAL: The fact that there is no indictment of the President is probably dictated as much by the policies that the Department of Justice has adopted as a result of the Office of Legal Counsel opinion. It's not binding. But Mueller probably decided that he couldn't indict a sitting President.

But there has been deeply serious wrongdoing here that goes to our national security. There was an attack on America. It was by the Russians. And there's evidence that the Trump campaign benefitted from it; in fact, colluded with it. And that evidence deserves to be made public and the questions answered that are on Americans' minds.

BLITZER: Senator, there's no indictment of the President's son, Donald Trump Jr., or son-in-law Jared Kushner, either - there are no guidelines saying they can't be indicted, as is the case for sitting President.

BLUMENTHAL: And there may be indictments in the future, not necessarily in Washington, D.C., as a result of the Mueller investigation by the Special Counsel himself, but there could be in other jurisdictions.

What's been revealed, for example, is that the President encouraged the release of hacked e-mails stolen by the Russians, derogatory to Hillary Clinton that he provided and directed that it be provided to the Russians' polling data while they were conducting this social media manipulation campaign. He was negotiating a Trump tower at Moscow with the Russians at the same time as he was denying it to the American people. And his son and son-in-law, Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, were sitting down with Russian agents after they were promised derogatory information about Hillary Clinton.

So these examples - and there are only a few examples of the kind of facts that the American people deserve to know in greater depth. There are a lot of questions about these instances. We owe it really to the great credit of the press that there was a lot of great reporting that enlightened the American people, but they deserve to see all of the facts and findings from this investigation. There needs to be transparency.

BLITZER: If there were hard evidence, Senator, of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, why didn't Robert Mueller prosecute the participants in that conspiracy?

BLUMENTHAL: He did prosecute 13 Russian agents. He prosecuted Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. He prosecuted Roger Stone.

BLITZER: We're talking about American citizens, but Manafort wasn't - he was charged and convicted. He's going to jail for 7 1/2 years, but not for conspiring or committing collusion illegally with the Russians, all sorts of other issues.

BLUMENTHAL: Their lies, and many of them were convicted of lying either to a Congressional committee or to the FBI, concerned dealings with the Russians. In fact, Roger Stone was accused of lying about his contacts with the Russians in the documents recently filed. Manafort, the same after his conviction. So there were clear relationships between those issues involving their convictions even though they were tax fraud and other kinds of fraud for Paul Manafort. But the lies that they told were connected to this attack on America.

And the reason that this investigation began was a counterintelligence inquiry. That kind of counterintelligence inquiry is directly related to our responsibilities in Congress, oversight responsibility, and obligations to reform and enhance the law to better protect America from these kinds of attacks by the Russians in the future.

BLITZER: Well, we're going to see what happens. Let's see if those principal conclusions are released as early as tomorrow and where we go from here.

Senator Blumenthal, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

BLITZER: The breaking news continues. Next, we're told the Trump team isn't panicking about the Mueller report. But is the calm belying a storm ahead once details are made public? And how soon will the Attorney General reveal the gist of Mueller's findings. Our correspondents and analysts, they're all working their sources. We'll be back in a moment. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. The Attorney General, William Barr, just wrapped up a full day over at the Justice Department, spent more than nine hours there reviewing Robert Mueller's report on the Russia investigation.

As Barr was working, House Democrats held emergency talks. They're preparing for a summary of Mueller's principal conclusions. They're demanding full disclosure of the Mueller report, and they're threatening subpoenas if they don't get it, warning the Trump administration to preserve documents from the probe.

Let's bring in our team of experts. Shimon Prokupecz, what does it tell you that this report, at least the principal conclusions, could not be released today?

PROKUPECZ: I think there's a lot more work to do. Clearly, there is a lot to go through. They're sitting probably in a skiff. It's a secret compartmentalized area of the Department of Justice going through this, going through all the classified information. And they're probably trying to figure out - lots of lawyers involved, lots of aides involved - trying to figure out what they can release. It sounds like there's a lot of information. It does sound to me like they do want to release as much as possible, which I think is a good sign.

BLITZER: Well, that would be encouraging, although the Democrats will want everything--

PROKUPECZ: That's right. They--

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: --released. Not as much as possible, they'll want everything released. We saw the President playing golf today down in Florida near Mar-a-Lago, his resort down in Palm Beach. What are you hearing about the White House's attitude towards what's going on?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it depends. Some people feel really good about what they heard yesterday. They feel good that there were indictments. They feel confident that the President is vindicated here. But some people inside the White House are a little bit more cautious than that. And that's why you've seen the President be so silent today, so uncharacteristically silent. He went and played golf today. We saw him there in his car reading the newspaper. So, paying attention to the headlines.

But other than that, he has not tweeted at all. Not only does the President normally tweet almost every day, but especially on Saturdays, he's a frequent tweeter. Today we haven't heard anything. Instead, he was out on the golf course playing, we know, with Kid Rock, who posted a photo of the President, golfing together earlier today. The President - they're smiling as he stands next to the singer.

But other than that, we have not heard much from the President or from the White House. And though they were feeling good about the fact that there were no more indictments, I'm told that the President has been pretty anxious waiting for this investigation to come to an end. And that's why he's been quizzing his legal team over the last few weeks when is this going to be over and when are we going to be able to see the report, something they have not seen yet.

BLITZER: So - no tweet so far this week. And I think, in contrast, last weekend he tweeted some 50 separate--

BROWN: Exactly.

BLITZER: --times in the course of last weekend. Susan, what big outstanding questions need to be answered from your perspective?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY ATTORNEY: So we don't what the - what - the Mueller report is actually going to answer it all, but we do have some sense of the big outstanding questions that remain. I think one of the biggest mysteries is related to Paul Manafort and his relationship with Russia and Ukraine and potential ties to the actual election interference.

The Special Counsel's office has left these really fascinating little breadcrumbs in their filings regarding Manafort sharing polling data. At one point, a member of the Special Counsel's team referred to Manafort calling Konstantin Kilimnik as going to the heart of the inquiry. If there aren't going to be more indictments, is the Mueller report going to actually fill in those gaps?

Another big question is whether or not the Mueller report is going to address that phone call that Michael Flynn made to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, which he said this was during the transition period that when Trump took office that they would lift sanctions, whether or not Donald Trump directed him or was otherwise aware of that phone call at the time.

Now, that's a - that's a factual question that doesn't - it's not a crime. It's not illegal. It's not collusion. It's not obstruction. But Donald Trump knew or instructed Flynn to make that phone call, it would put all of his later conduct in a different light. And so those are the questions that they really aren't legal conclusions, they aren't things that somebody might be indicted about and yet might prove really politically devastating for the President.

BLITZER: Yes. Even before the release of the report, the Mueller investigation has been a pretty fruitful one over the past nearly two years. Joey Jackson is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with us. Look what the Special Counsel has done over the past nearly two years. 199 overall criminal counts, 37 people and entities charged, seven people pleaded guilty, five people already sentenced. And look at the number--

JOEY JACKSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes.

BLITZER: --of Trump associates who had Russian contacts that have now been detailed. All that is very significant. JACKSON: Yes, it's impressive. I think two things. First, process and

then substance. On the process side, in terms of how they went about this investigation, it's a rare occasion, particularly nowadays where you don't have leaks every day, where people are not talking about what's going on, they've been able to keep this under wraps. So I think from a process perspective, they've been able to do their job.

From a substance perspective, Wolf, yes, we see all of this that they produce, but I think there's still a feeling of I won't say dissatisfaction, but there's a feeling of wanting more. Right? The report comes out - didn't come out, but we know it is out as of yesterday. And what were the big conclusions there? Number one, it's over. Number two, no more indictments.

And so I think while these people lying to investigators, lying about their contact with Russia to the investigator, obviously the argument is processed crimes, processed crimes, processed crimes, these don't have anything to do with the issue of collusion. But I think everyone wanted to see to what extent was the President of the United States involved or any of his children involved. And I think that leaves a big - it's undone and perhaps some dissatisfaction as it relates the Democrats.

BLITZER: You expect that we're going to hear directly publicly from Robert Mueller at some point?

PROKUPECZ: No, I don't, unless he appears before Congress. Mueller is not the kind of guy who wants to go out there and talk about anything that he is doing, any of his work. He just - he wasn't like that when he was at the FBI. He wasn't like that when he was at (ph) the Department of Justice. He certainly was not like that during this investigation. You never saw him.

He - there were press conferences. He was never - he never stood by the Deputy Attorney General when they announced the indictment of the Russians. He was nowhere to be found. And time and time again, as we know, his office, during this investigation, never - almost never commented on anything. So, no, I don't expect him to say anything publicly. However, if members of Congress want to talk to him, that's going to get tricky. But I think--

(CROSSTALK)

COLLINS: We hear so much talk about that being a potential, them issuing a subpoena to get Mueller in front of Congress. But I have talked to people who say they have a hard time believing that Mueller, once in front of lawmakers, is still going to put out anything out there that Bill Barr is not going to put out there because he wouldn't supersede the Attorney General there.

PROKUPECZ: That's exactly right.

COLLINS: So even though there are talk and there are those Democrats going on and saying that that's an option, it seems unlikely they actually get a ton from that. PROKUPECZ: Right. You know who could potentially appear before

Congress? It would be Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General. Right? Because he was overseeing this investigation.

JACKSON: Yes.

PROKUPECZ: So I think an argument would be made that he should be the one that should - and remember, why would Pamela Brown has been reporting is that one of the reasons why Rod Rosenstein has stayed was to take some of the heat if there is going to be any heat once parts of this report start being released.

BLITZER: Yes.

JACKSON: But there's a distinction between having the manager of something come forward than having the practitioner, the person who actually had their hands on the pulse of everything. So I think at the end of the day, Congress would want to hear from him. Right? Silent Bob as to what was going on, what the specifics were.

HENNESSEY: So one thing we've seen sort of in the Republicans' investigation of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, right, we've seen not just that they were calling in people like Comey and the FBI General Counsel, but every single person who worked on the investigation.

And so I do think that as we get into that fight, not just about Mueller's report but those underlying investigative materials, we might see other members of Robert Mueller's team also being asked to come and sit down with Congress, walk them through their investigative steps--

JACKSON: Right.

HENNESSEY: --and their decision-making.

JACKSON: Yes.

HENNESSEY: That's another way that Congress might attempt to produce the information.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody, stay with us. There's more we need to discuss. Much more on all the news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're back with our team of experts as anticipation builds for the Attorney General's summary of Robert Mueller's key findings. William Barr left the Justice Department just a little while ago after spending this entire day over at the Justice Department, working and reviewing Mueller's report.

Kaitlan, it looks like there could be a battle involving with what's called executive privilege, the White House citing that and demanding that certain aspects of Mueller's report remain confidential. COLLINS: Oh, yes. And the President's legal team has been preparing

for this for several weeks now, especially over the last three weeks or so, as they've known that Mueller is wrapping up from they've heard in the media. So they've been preparing for some kind of fight like this because they knew that the next fight was going to be releasing some of that. And they don't think that some of the President's conversations that he's had with some people should be public.

So as it comes down to it, I do think that the President's legal team is ready to have that kind of a fight. What's interesting is they've been strategizing that. But the White House otherwise was not fully prepared to know how to respond to the end of the investigation. That's why you heard such a muted statement from Sarah Sanders yesterday, because they really didn't know what they were getting here. The White House really did not know what was going to be in this report and they still haven't seen the report yet.

BLITZER: And an executive privilege, does it cover all aspects of this Mueller Russia investigation?

COLLINS: It doesn't. (Inaudible) sort of making very, very broad executive privilege claims as though some significant parts of this report might be covered. That said, the executive privilege only plausibly applies to actually a pretty narrow set. Executive privilege only applies from the period of time after Trump becomes President, only applies for conversations between and with government officials.

And so it might plausibly apply to, say, the elements of the obstruction investigation. Those that alleged conduct took place while Trump was President and it mostly involved his communications with other government officials. But the entire inquiry related to the conduct of the Trump campaign, Russian election interference, that all took place well before Donald Trump was President of the United States. And executive privilege, just on its face, would not apply to any of that material.

BLITZER: The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, Joey, as you know, they are threatening to use their subpoena power to get this information. How difficult - how successful will they be on that?

JACKSON: I think they'll have limited success. Let me explain what I mean. I think certainly off the bat, if they want people to come before them to testify, whether that's Bob Mueller, whether it's the Deputy Attorney General, whether it's other officials who've been working, I think they'll be able to compel them to appear and answer specific questions.

In terms of documentary evidence or executive privileged information, I think it's something that'll be resolved by the court. And on that issue, I think ultimately the Supreme Court will do it. Remember, we're talking about coequal branches of the government. Right? The President obviously having the executive authority, the legislature having the legislative authority. And so that's a fight. Ultimately, that will be resolved by the courts as they evaluate what the subpoena is for, why is it necessary, and if in fact the material is protected. BLITZER: Shimon, you've covered this from day one, every aspect. Is

there any sense that Congressional Democrats, the majority in the House of Representatives, they're the - the - they've got the subpoena power. They're going to be able to uncover certain information that Mueller was unable to discover?

PROKUPECZ: No, because when you think about all the classified information that Mueller has, all of the intelligence gathering that they've done, all of the people that they've interviewed, all of the documents that they've received--

JACKSON: The grand jury--

PROKUPECZ: --the grand jury information, certainly, a very good point. A lot of this did go through a grand jury. Right? There's a grand - so, no, there's no way that they're going to be able to do anything more than Mueller has already done.

Look, they could always uncover. Some new witness could come forward and say, oh, I just was afraid to come and talk to Mueller, but I'll come talk to you. That is always the possibility, or some new evidence could come to light. But really when you think about all the time that the FBI has spent on this, Special Counsel's office, and they're going to continue looking at certain aspects of certainly the Russian collusion. The Russian--

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Can the Congress get their hands on some of the grand jury testimony?

HENNESSEY: Potentially, although that actually is the information that Barr might have a real claim to not being able to share. I agree. The executive branch are just much better investigators. They have more powerful tools, including the grand jury. And so Congress is - to the extent that they try and look at questions that Mueller looked at, they are very unlikely to come up with additional answers or different answers than he did.

That said, Mueller was looking at a very, very narrow mandate. He was very strict in sort of staying in his lane. And so one area in which Congress might be moving forward--

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: --Watergate some grand jury information was made available to Congress.

HENNESSEY: Exactly. So whenever there is a compelling - there is an argument for the compelling public interest for the disclosure of materials, again, we're sort of getting five or six steps down into the nature of the legal fight. That first fight is going to be over the Mueller report itself and then the underlying investigative material.

PROKUPECZ: The thing is, Wolf, when - you have to remember how this - speaking of this entire investigation, it all started really, I think, from what the intelligence community was seeing. There was an enormous amount of intelligence that was indicating suspicious activity between people in the campaign and the Russians. Contacts, phone calls, communications, human sources talking about this.

That is what sparked this interest. That is highly classified, highly sensitive that the members of Congress are probably not going to be able to get their hands on. That is what started this investigation, and that has been the key here for investigators. And the question is, did the Mueller - does this Mueller report address all of that?

COLLINS: Yes. And that's important to remember that if something is not coming out, the public isn't seeing something, it's not always just because President Trump or the White House doesn't want it to. If it's related to some kind of intelligence source and that's from a Russian or anything like that, how they got that information, that's why that would not become public. So it's not all just because executive privilege or grand jury or something that the President said.

PROKUPECZ: And ongoing investigations could matter too.

HENNESSEY: Yes, certainly. That said, the group for whom the classified information argument will not work is the Gang of Eight in Congress, that small group that is entitled to see absolutely everything.

BLITZER: Yes. And Nancy Pelosi said she doesn't want any reports to the Gang of Eight. Nothing classified. She wants everything made public. Everybody, stick around. There's more news we're following, including a closer look at the man behind the Mueller report.

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BLITZER: The breaking news this hour, Washington and much of the world are waiting for the Attorney General, William Barr, to share what he calls principal conclusions of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on his Russia investigation.

Our Chief Political Analyst, Gloria Borger, takes a closer look now at Mueller and the key roles he's played over at the Justice Department over decades.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): After two years leading the Russia investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller remains a mystery man, perhaps the most private public figure in Washington. But he's still become a political pinata.

TRUMP: There should have never been any Mueller investigation because there was never anything done wrong, there was no collusion, there never has been--

BORGER (voice-over): It's hard to remember that at the start--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's the right guy at the right time.

BORGER (voice-over): Mueller was a bipartisan favorite.

ROBERT RAY, INDEPENDENT COUNSEL DURING BILL CLINTON INVESTIGATION: He would have been on anybody's list of, let's say, the top five people in the country to have taken on this kind of a responsibility.

BORGER (voice-over): The resume is long. At 74, he's been involved for decades in some of the Justice Department's most celebrated cases. Mobster John Gotti, Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega--

ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR AND SPECIAL COUNSEL OF THE INVESTIGATION INTO RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE IN 2016 UNITED STATES ELECTIONS: Wreckage of Pan Am 103 fell.

BORGER (voice-over): --and the Pan Am 103 bombing in Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, a case that still remains personal.

MUELLER: I'll never forget the visit I made to Lockerbie where I saw the small wooden warehouse in which were stored the various effects of your loved ones, a white sneaker, a Syracuse sweatshirt, Christmas presents, and photographs.

GARRETT GRAFF, AUTHOR, THE THREAT MATRIX: He's been effectively the same Bob Mueller in every place he has ever worked, whether that was the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco in the 1970s, whether that was the George H.W. Bush administration in the 1980s, whether that was the D.C. homicide prosecutor's office in the 1990s, or the FBI in the 2000s. He is hard driving. He's tenacious. He is incredibly thorough and has a very strong sense of right or wrong.

BORGER (voice-over): A registered Republican, but it's hard to tell.

PHILIP MUDD, FORMER FBI SENIOR INTELLIGENCE ADVISER: Four-and-a-half years of whatever, 2,000 meetings, I didn't hear him say anything political.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How would you describe his politics?

LISA MONACO, FORMER MUELLER CHIEF OF STAFF: Not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As in there are none? There--

MONACO: He's not - he's apolitical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States--

BORGER (voice-over): --which is partly why President Bush picked him to run the FBI in 2001.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The FBI must remain independent of politics and uncompromising in its mission.

BORGER (voice-over): Mueller arrived at the FBI just seven days before 9/11. He served most of his term under Bush. And when President Obama asked him to stay for two more years, it required an act of Congress. The Senate approved 100-to-zero. His MO, a by-the-books guy even after-hours.

MUDD: People tell me after their Christmas party, I mean, why we're going to the Director's house, the guy who never really interacts with us, is that at the end of the party that he would flick the lights. So it's going 7:00 to 9:00. At 9:03, it's like - well, it's - on the invitation, it's 7:00 to 9:00. It's 9:03. Lights on. That's kind of a signal.

MONACO: He's in the office between 6:00 and 6:30 every morning. And he would always plop his briefcase down on the chair opposite his desk, not sit down and kibitz or shoot the breeze. Immediately, what's happening, what's going on?

MUDD: I never saw any curiosity (ph) or nervousness, ever, ever.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ever, never?

MUDD: Never. There's not a lot of back and forth. Very quickly you're going to go through the details of the case.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you assume that he is managing the Special Counsel investigation the same way?

MUDD: Oh, heck, yes. I wouldn't assume it. That is his - it's not like a professional choice. That's his DNA. What's going on today, what you've got, what you've got, what you've got? I don't want to hear a lot of noise. I want to hear what the facts are. Let's talk about it. What's your judgment? What do you think? OK. Next, there's our decision. Let's move on. Let's go.

BORGER (voice-over): Showing up at the Special Counsel's nondescript office at the same early time every day, always avoiding the spotlight. So much so, that spotting Mueller anywhere became a bit of a Washington parlor game.

Mueller grew up in the wealthy Philadelphia suburbs and attended an elite boarding school, a classmate of John Kerry, then to Princeton. But the combat death of college friend David Hackett in Vietnam inspired Mueller to join the marines.

GRAFF: He was wounded in combat, shot through the leg, received Bronze Star with valor, Purple Heart, and was right back in the fight a couple of weeks later.

MUELLER: In some sense, you feel that you've been given a second lease on life and you want to make the most of it to contribute in some way.

BORGER (voice-over): after graduating the University of Virginia Law School, Mueller soon found his way to the Department of Justice and remained there for most of the next four decades.

MUELLER: My colleagues here at the Department of Justice, past and present--

BORGER (voice-over): Two short breaks to give private practice a try.

GRAFF: Bob Mueller has been notoriously unhappy every time he has tried to be in private practice. He just can't defend guilty people. He'll meet with a client. They'll explain the problem, and he'll say, "Well, it sounds like you should go to jail then."

(LAUGHTER)

GRAFF: That--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So he'll tell his client--

GRAFF: --it sounds like you're guilty. Bob Mueller is someone who sees the world in very black-and-white terms.

BORGER (voice-over): By 2004, Mueller was running the FBI when his phone rang. It was James Comey, then Deputy Attorney general. It was the first time Mueller and Comey would find themselves in a very controversial legal drama.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI: I was very upset. I was angry.

BORGER (voice-over): Comey was worried. The Bush administration was determined to keep a warrantless eavesdropping program that Mueller, Comey and their boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft thought was illegal. But Ashcroft was in the hospital recovering from surgery, leaving Comey in charge.

COMEY: I was concerned that, given how ill I knew the Attorney General was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that. Called Director Mueller. He said I'll meet you at the hospital right now.

BORGER (voice-over): They had to race administration officials to Ashcroft's bedside.

COMEY: Director Mueller instructed the FBI agents present not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances.

BORGER (voice-over): In the end, Ashcroft backed Comey and Mueller.

GRAFF: He enlisted Bob Mueller because he knew that Bob Mueller had this incredible nonpartisan reputation in Washington.

BORGER (voice-over): Now, Trump views Mueller's relationship with suspicion.

TRUMP: His best friend is Comey, who's a bad cop.

BORGER (voice-over): Mueller loyalists deny it. But it's all part of the landscape as the Special Counsel's work ends. And the country waits to see how the long silent Bob Mueller will finally be heard.

GRAFF: Bob Mueller believes in American institutions. So I think he wants to set the institutions up to make the best decisions that they can. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Gloria Borger reporting. And Gloria is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with me right now. Gloria, excellent. Excellent report.

BORGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: The decision on who will get access to the Mueller report, that decision is far from settled.

BORGER: No, it isn't settled. And while Mueller cares about institutions, I think what we're going to see is these institutions on a collision course with each other, Wolf. It could be the Congress, the Justice Department, the White House, all fighting over just how much of Bob Mueller's work they'll get to see.

BLITZER: Yes. It's going to be very, very intense, this fight.

BORGER: Well--

BLITZER: Gloria, good work. Thank you--

BORGER: Thanks.

BLITZER: --very much.

We have more breaking news just ahead on the Mueller report, including reaction from the Kremlin about the end of the investigation that's been so focused on Russia.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're staying on the breaking news with the Mueller report under review by the Attorney General, William Barr, as President Trump is staying unusually silent about the conclusion of the Russia investigation. There is new reaction coming in from Moscow. Let's go there. Our Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen is on the scene for us.

What are you hearing, Fred, from the Russians?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. The Russians are obviously watching all of this very closely. You can already see it being reported about on Russian media. So far, it's still quiet, matter of fact. Of course, one of the things we always have to mention is that in Russia, most of the media, especially television, is of course state-run.

Now, we've been in touch with pretty much all the major players here in Moscow. We got in touch with the Kremlin. We asked them for comments. So far, they haven't even gotten back to us. However, foreign ministry has gotten back to us already. The spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, she came out and she said, look, she's commented on the Mueller investigation so many times that she doesn't want to additionally comment on what she calls another fragment. That, of course, in itself quite strange. It's - it is the full Mueller report, and that is now out. But you can

really see how Russian officials are sort of trying to lay low at this point in time, waiting to see what sort of conclusions - principal conclusions are going to come out of this Mueller report.

We've been checking with some of the members of parliament that we normally hear from. In this situation, many of them very often reactive on Twitter, especially around the Mueller report, so far, complete silence from all of them, which goes to show the message control that you do find very often here in Moscow. Of course, all of that quite surprising considering the fact that of the 37 entities and people who have been charged after the Mueller investigation and because of the Mueller investigation, 29 are Russian.

Now, of course, you have some members of Russia's military intelligence service, the GRU, especially when it comes to election, hacking the GRU itself, of course, as well. And then one of the big complexes that you had is, of course, the Internet Research Agency and all of its affiliated organization, of course, leading that charge and trying to start that disinformation campaign. Wolf.

BLITZER: Gotten information in from Fred Pleitgen in Moscow. Fred, thanks very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. "CNN Newsroom" is coming up next.

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