Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
The Mueller Report Will Be Released Mid-April; One-On-One Interview With Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI); President Donald Trump Threatens To Close The U.S.-Mexico Border Next Week; Attorney General Barr Says Mueller Report Is Nearly 400 Pages, Expects Release "By Mid- April, If Not Sooner"; Barr: Mueller Assisting DOJ In Redacting His Report; House Judiciary Chairman Nadler Still Insisting On Full Mueller Report "Without Redactions" By April 2; Attorney General Barr Offers To Testify Before Senate And House Committees On May 1 And May 2; Trump Says "Very Good Likelihood" He Will Close The Border With Mexico Next Week; North Korea Completing Work On Rocket Facility; Trump Talks About North Korea Sanctions; Reports: North Korea's Restoration Of Long-Range Rocket Launch Facility Is "Almost Complete". Aired 5-6p ET
Aired March 29, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[17:00:08] WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. Mueller report released. The attorney general Bill Barr tells Congress the Mueller is nearly 400 pages long and is being scrubbed for sensitive intelligence and legal information. It will be ready for release by mid-April.
Barr to testify. The attorney general says he has no plans to send the report first to the White House, vows to make it public and says he is preparing to testify before Congress. But the Democratic House judiciary committee chairman says he still wants the complete report by next week.
Border threat. President Trump is now warning he will close the southern border next week and keep it closed if Mexico quote "doesn't immediately stop all illegal immigration. What is behind the new threat and the new deadline?
And rocket tensions. Weeks after President Trump quit his summit with Kim Jong-un, there are signs North Korea is putting a long-range racket facility back in business? How big of a threat is that to the United States and allies?
I'm Wolf Blitzer and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news, the attorney general Bill Barr says the justice department will have the Mueller report ready to be released by mid-April if not sooner. In a letter to the congressional judiciary committee chairman, Barr sites progress on scrubbing the report which he says runs nearly 400 pages. And importantly the attorney general says there are no plans to send the report first to the White House for an executive privilege and promises to make it public after delivering it to Congress. But House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler says he still wants the
complete report by next week with no redactions. President Trump just said he has confidence in the attorney general and has nothing to hide.
Meantime, he is returning to hot button campaign themes including immigration. The President warning he will close the southern border next week if Mexico doesn't immediately stop all illegal immigration. I will speak with Senator Mazie Hirono of the judiciary committee. And our correspondents and analysts, they will have a full coverage of today's top stories.
Let's begin with our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez and our chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Evan, Barr says the justice department is well along in the process of redacting the 400 page report. How much of it will the public see?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it is not the complete report. But Bill Barr, the attorney general is telling members of Congress that they are going to see a lot of it. And he is going to release that information to the public as well.
He says that justice department lawyers are much further along in the process of scrubbing the nearly 400 page report. He says that they are going to remove grand jury informs and classified information, information from the special counsel Robert Mueller as well as any personal information for third parties. So it appears in the next couple of weeks the public and members of Congress will get to see a great deal more of the Barr report -- I'm sorry, of the Mueller report.
And here is this, one part of the letter that Bill Barr sent to members of Congress says the following about whether or not the President and his team will be able to review the Mueller report.
He says quote "although the President would have the right to a certain privilege over certain parts of the report, he has stated publicly that he intends to defer to me and accordingly there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review," Wolf.
This is certainly, as the attorney general is citing, this would have been the privilege of the President to be able to say, look, certain parts of this should not be released under executive privilege. But it appears, according to Bill Barr at this point, he has no plans to send this to the White House so that they review it before he sends, again, the redacted version of this report to members of Congress and releases it to the public.
BLITZER: And the President just said he has full confidence in the attorney general to do the right thing.
You know, Jeffrey, the special counsel Robert Mueller according to this letter from the attorney general is quote "assisting us in this process of reviewing what can be released publicly and what can't be released publicly." How significant is that?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, that really jumped out at me the fact that Mueller has some role in the editing of his own report. This could be a great political benefit to attorney general Barr because if there are redactions that Democrats in the House of Representatives object to Barr could say, well, this was insisted upon by Mueller. And that would insulate him I think from a great deal of political criticism.
You know, whether - well, of course, you know, everything depends on how much is actually taken out of this report. But the fact that Mueller is involve, at least in some way, I think is potentially a great benefits to Barr.
[17:05:04] BLITZER: It is very significant point that you are making.
Evan, the attorney general also says, and I'm quoting him now in this letter, "everyone will soon be able to read it on their own." But he did list some restrictions on why he would black out or redact certain parts.
PEREZ: Right, exactly. And look again, this is not going to be the full unfiltered report. This is still going to be heavily redacted. There is going to be a great deal of information that is not being released publicly.
And I think Jeffrey is pointing to do exactly the right point here. The attorney general is handling this in a very politically sensitive, very politically astute way. He is trying to protect the pieces of this investigation that are living on. He is trying to again abide by the grand jury - the rules on grand jury information which are not released unless a judge said he can release it. He is also put classified information. We know the FBI, the CIA, other agencies are going to have to weigh in and decide what parts of this need to be protected.
And I think he is also, obviously Rod Rosenstein is still there who has been overseeing this investigation. And he still got Robert Mueller waiting in the wings. He is making sure that this is done in a collaborative way, again, so that he is not the one being accused of hiding things that maybe are not -- that might be detrimental or might be negative towards the President. This is as good as you can do this by the justice department.
Keep in mind, this investigation was largely finished in February. They could have handed off the report. The Mueller report could have been handed over to Matt Whitaker who is the acting attorney general at the time. And could you imagine if this report, if the Mueller report had been handed in to matt Whitaker, the amount of the political problem that would have been facing everyone with regard to that.
So I think given the fact that it is being handles by Bill Barr and is being done in this way, its being done for a reason in order to give the justice department and give members of Congress as mump as they can and again protect this investigation. BLITZER: A very good point. Jeffrey - go ahead.
TOOBIN: Well, if you look at those categories they are judgment calls.
BLITZER: All right. So let me go through one by one with you, Jeffrey. I want your analysis and you tell me if these are legitimate areas where redaction or blocking out preventing the public from seeing certain information is legitimate.
Number one, material subject to federal rule of criminal procedure 6E that by law cannot be made public. Is that legitimate?
TOOBIN: Well, it's legitimate but it's in the hands of the justice department. The justice department can always go to a judge and say we want this grand jury material released. And judges often defers. So this is not, you know, something that where the justice department's hands are tied. If they want that material to come out it could come out. Also grand jury material has lots of different definitions and it can be expansive or smaller depending on how much the prosecutor wants to release.
BLITZER: That's a good point.
PEREZ: And to Jeffrey's point, a lot of these witnesses appeared before the special counsel in interviews and then went to the grand jury. So the question is, you know, how much of that information will get shielded when the special counsel has the same information, perhaps, the same information from interviews that were not before the grand jury.
BLITZER: That's a good point too.
Second category for redaction, Jeffrey. Material the intelligence community identify this as potentially compromising sensitive sources and methods. That sounds very legitimate.
TOOBIN: Yes. This is where the administration is on its most solid ground is that, you know, classified information, information about intelligence gathering material is, you know, the holiest of holies. And that is something that no administration would release. But again, what counts as sources and methods could be up for debate.
PEREZ: The question, Wolf, on that is will members of Congress who are ready and like for example the gang of eight be brought in and shown some of that because they have the clearances to be able to read some of that information. The question, will they be able to see that.
BLITZER: And if it is only provided to the so-called gang on eight.
BLITZER: The leaders of the intelligence committees and the leaders of the House and Senate. They can't speak about it. That is totally, totally secret. The third category also sounds pretty legitimate to me, Jeffrey. A
material that could affect other ongoing matters including those that the special counsel has referred to other department offices. In other words, if they refer the case to the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York and it's still ongoing they couldn't do anything that could undermine that investigation.
TOOBIN: Certainly the category is legitimate. But how much you sensor in the name of this could be highly debatable. Mueller himself has been very expansive in limiting the disclosure of material that he thinks could jeopardize other investigations. So this is in many respects potentially the biggest category in terms of volume at least it could be. Obviously, all of this decides on what Barr ultimately decides to do.
[17:10:06] BLITZER: The fourth and final category, information that would un-dually infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interest of peripheral third parties.
This is significant because James Comey, the fired FBI director, he did release information on individuals who were not charged, information that undermined their so-called reputational interest.
TOOBIN: Right. This is the provision that was added after the star report which has do many explicit sexual details about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. And they wanted to create a category to try to avoid that. But those words are very difficult to define. And you know, again, gives tremendous discretion to the attorney general.
I mean, yes, if it were a sexual matter, of course, it would be covered by this. But it would damage someone's reputation to talk about obstruction of justice. Does that mean there is going to be no discussion of obstruction of justice potentially by the President in here? Again, this gives the attorney general a tremendous amount of discretion. And we are just going to have to see how he uses this.
BLITZER: And as you correctly pointed out, Jeffrey, if Robert Mueller who is assisting the attorney general in making all of these decisions stands by the attorney general that will be a huge, huge development in giving credibility for the attorney general decides, right?
BLITZER: If Mueller publicly says I support all of Barr's redaction, I don't see how the Democrats could get much traction on their criticism of it. However, if Mueller says nothing and Mueller usually says nothing, then you could have a political free for all about the redactions. But again, I don't think we should prejudge. Maybe there won't be a lot of redactions. But if there are a lot of them and Mueller doesn't embrace them, you are going to see the Democrats in courts sooner rather than later.
PEREZ: The biggest questions obviously remain on the obstruction part of this investigation, why did the special counsel Robert Mueller arrive at sort of the King Solomon solution, right. On one hand and the other, you know. That's the big question. And one of the most important lines of Barr's letter last week, on Sunday, two members of Congress was a line that said that a lot of the obstructive behavior, a lot of the behavior that was being examined as to whether or not the President had corrupt intent was already known publicly. It has been publicly reported. That's a very important line in Barr's letter from Sunday.
And I think what that tells us, Wolf, is that I think Barr is trying to signal to everybody that look, you guys know a lot of stories here. It didn't reach to level of obstruction of justice in our view. But you know a lot. There is no big explosive hidden story about the President's obstructive behavior that you don't already know. Maybe there is a few things here and there from the testimony.
But what he is trying to signal is that there is a lot of this has already known. And so, what that does is, to Jeffrey's point, is then he can't. It doesn't seem to me that it makes a good case for redactions on that stuff.
Again, if it is already publicly known, then the justice department should release as much of that information is possible.
BLITZER: Finally, Jeffrey, the - what do you make of the - in the letter, the attorney general says that he is not going to share in advance with the White House or with the President this report, or any of the redactions. The President says he has complete confidence in the attorney general. That's pretty significant.
TOOBIN: It is, although the wording again is a little peculiar. I mean, he doesn't exactly say that there will be no invocation of executive privilege. He only says that he will make all of those judgments about executive privilege. Now usually, executive privilege can only be invoked by the President or the President's office. So the question is will Barr invoke executive privilege on the President's behalf to sensor anything? It is just another question that is raised by this letter is will Barr, when he releases the report with its redactions, explain line by line on what basis he censored things? Because that could be very - that would be very significant or he might just say I censored thins on a variety of grounds which would put Democrats in a more difficult position.
BLITZER: Jeffrey and Evan, I want both of you guys to stand by because there is a lot more going on. I want to go to Capitol Hill though.
First, our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is standing by.
Manu, House Democrats, they have demanded that the full report, the full report without any redactions be released. Barr has given them a timeline, said he will be willing to testify before the Senate judiciary committee on May 1st, the House judiciary committee on May 2nd. Will that satisfy the Democrats and the critics?
[17:15:11] MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right now, no. The House Democrats are saying this is certainly not enough. The concerns are being raised about the redactions that Bill Barr is citing in this letter. The Democrats are saying the President is on their side particularly
as it relates to the grand jury information that Bill Barr says will be redacted from the Mueller report. They are pointing to the Watergate case, the Ken Starr investigation, as well as the Republican investigation, the Clinton email probe saying there is ample evidence of grand jury information and other underlying evidence be provided to Congress.
Now the chairman of the House judiciary committee put out a statement saying he was not satisfied that in raising some significant concerns.
He said this. As I informed the attorney general earlier this week, Congress requires the full and complete Mueller report without redactions as well as access to the underlying evidence by April 2nd. That deadline still stands.
He also said he should work with us to request a court order to release any and all grand jury information to the House Judiciary Committee as is occurred in every similar investigation in the past. Now, he goes onto say he wants Barr to come even before May 2nd to explain his letter, explain the reason why President Trump was not prosecuted of obstruction of justice. That does not pure likely to happen. But now there's not satisfying.
Now, Republicans on other hand, have a different view. They are in line with what the White House and what Bill Barr is suggesting. Doug Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee said while a joint chairman Nadler, I'm looking forward to reviewing the classified information in the report at a future date, he stands alone and said he will arbitrate deadlines for that release and then calling the attorney general to break the law, by releasing the report without redactions.
But Wolf, this fight is just beginning. The question still is how much will be redacted when Jerry Nadler talk to Bill Barr earlier this week. That question came up and Nadler told me it was not answered. So what that ultimately see a big question. But Democrats say they are gearing up for a fight if they don't get what they want, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Manu Raju up on Capitol Hill. Thanks very much.
President Trump just reacted to the attorney general Bill Barr's announcement about the Mueller report.
Let's go to our White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, does the President support Barr's plan to release what is now being describe as this redacted report?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Wolf, the President seemed to be saying he is giving the all clear to the justice department on this one. He spoke with reporters just a few minutes ago down in Palm Beach, Florida and he said that as far as this breaking development goes, he is deferring to the attorney general here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I have great confidence in the attorney general. And if that is what he would like to do, I have nothing to hide. This was a hoax. This was a witch hunt. I have absolutely nothing to hide. And I think a lot of things are coming out with respect to the other side. But I have a lot of confidence in the attorney general.
COLLINS: Now, wolf, as noted, Bill Barr in his letter said that he has no plans to send this redacted version of the report to the White House for privilege review before it goes up to Capitol Hill. But he didn't say that is not because the White House doesn't have the right to do that. He said actually in fact that they do but instead noted that the President has deferred to him on this so he will be making the calls there.
Wolf, where this will be interesting is even though allies have paraded his key findings that he released on that summary letter on Sunday as a victory for the President, they have worried that other information in this report could be politically damaging to the President. So that is what people inside White House will be keeping their eyes up for.
BLITZER: And the other some really significant development Kaitlan, the President really had extremely harsh words from Mexico today. He threatened to completely shut down the border, the U.S.-Mexico border next week, next week. Update our viewers on that.
COLLINS: Yes. And it's important to note this is a threat that the President has made at least twice before but never followed through on. What's different about this time is that not only is the President giving a deadline saying just a few moments ago that he could close the border down with Mexico next week. It is also the underlying factor surrounding this decision. Not only this February numbers of 76,000 border-crossings happening an 11 year high but also listen to what the President had to say about caravans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I'm very upset with Mexico. I think Mexico is doing of lot of talking. Mexico is going to have to do something otherwise I'm closing the border. I would just closed the border. And with the deficit like we have with Mexico that had for many years, closing the border will be a profit-making operations. There is a very good likelihood that I will be closing the border next week and that would be just fine with me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: So see the President saying that there, Wolf. But also we should note that last night, during that first rally since the end of the Mueller investigation, the President seem to mock people who are applying for asylum saying that some of them he believes in his mind are faking it when they come across the border and they don't actually need asylum.
[17:20:13] BLITZER: Yes. Significant developments indeed.
Kaitlan is over at the White House. We will get back to you.
Joining us now, Democratic senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. She is a member of both the judiciary and the armed services committees.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Goo to see you once again, Wolf.
BLITZER: I want to discuss both of these breaking news developments. First, the attorney general saying he plans to make the full Mueller report public by mid-April, if not sooner, with some redactions. Are you satisfied with the timeline?
HIRONO: Well, I'm glad that he is saying that he is going to release the report. Although, I think that there is certainly is precedent for Jerry Nadler to get the un-redacted version as well as all the underlying material that it forms a basis for the Mueller investigation. And I think it is interesting that the President is saying that he doesn't have to look at the report to see if he can - he wants to exercise privilege. This is the same attorney general though testified when he was that the Mueller investigation is not a witch hunt. At the same time, the President got to use to call it a witch hunt.
BLITZER: What if Robert Mueller who is assisting the attorney general deciding what should be blacked out or redacted? What if he totally justifies the decisions made by the attorney general. Would that satisfy you?
HIRONO: Well, we don't know that so I'm not going to preclude or pre- suppose anything. It is good that he is getting Mueller to participate. But at the same time, there are couple of things. First of all I think as the House does need the totally un-redacted version and that there's precedent for that. And we both want the House and Senate want all of the underlying materials. And I am particularly interested in the discussion or the analysis relating to obstruction of justice as well as the underlying materials because we saw with our own eyes and hear with our own ears all the ways that the President tried to stymied this investigation which he continues to call a witch hunt.
BLITZER: So, do you want all of this information to be made not only available to Congress, but also to the public? Should they see, to the American people see everything including sensitive classified information, including grand jury testimony, including information that could smear private individuals that may have come forward but are not being charged with any crime?
HIRONO: I'm seeing that is the House committee is entitled to that information because it is the committee that any investigation into impeachment starts with the House. As for the public and of course, they are not entitled to sensitive or classified information. That is not what I'm saying at all. But as much as possible, this investigation and the report there should be made public to the American people as well as to the committees. And this is something that the American people clearly want.
BLITZER: So, just to interrupt for a second, Senator. So from your perspective would be OK to share some of this very sensitive information with the House judiciary committee on a very confidential basis but could not be made public, is that right?
HIRONO: The House judiciary committee is entitled to a non-redacted version. They are entitled. I'm not saying that the Senate committee should get that, although, it would be good, you, and I would like to see it.
BLITZER: Why should the House committee be entitled but not the Senate?
HIRONO: Because of the anything related to impeachment starts with the house. So they need the full report.
BLITZER: The attorney general also confirmed his willingness to testify in front of both of these committees, the Senate judiciary committee, the House judiciary committee, May 1st and May 2nd. He offered - so he is willing to come forward. I assume that works for you. You are please about that decision?
HIRONO: I'm glad that he is offering to come and testify. And I just want to make sure that we have enough time upon the disclosure of the report as well as all of the underlying materials in time for us to be able to ask the appropriate question of attorney general Barr.
BLITZER: And just to be precise on the issue of the House judiciary committee, are you still one of the lawmakers, one of the Democrats in the Senate and the House that thinks impeachment proceedings around the table?
HIRONO: I say everything should be on the table. And as the President is often say, let's see what happens. But I think that we need to proceed with this much information as possible. And at the same time, I want the American people to know that we are not just going to be focusing on the Mueller report, of course but notice that the President is now trying to take away health care from millions of people. And I think that that is also of tremendous interest to the American public. And we will need to continue to focus on that danger that confronts all of us as a clear and present danger.
BLITZER: There is a lot of issues out there.
BLITZER: Let me get your reaction to the President's threat today to completely shut down your entire border with Mexico next week, next week unless all illegal immigration is stopped. He says there is a very good likelihood he will do that next week. And he said he is looking forward to doing that. What do you make of that threat?
[17:25:17] HIRONO: A couple of things. Does he think that it is Mexico's responsibility to stop immigrants coming from Central America, families coming from Central America? And the second question I would have is, who did he talk to come up with this idea? So I think there are a lot of concern about what he is doing. And then if he just came out with this as yet another threat that he can toss out that is going to impact a lot of people, I think that once again the President is acting in what I would say a very reckless manner.
BLITZER: The ramifications of a complete shutdown of the U.S.-Mexico border whether to San Diego or El Paso or Arizona, that would be really, really enormous.
HIRONO: I'm pretty sure, Wolf, that he did not consider those ramifications as generally the case when he comes up with these decisions without appropriate consultations.
BLITZER: Senator Hirono thanks, as usual, for joining us.
HIRONO: Thank you.
BLITZER: All right. We are going to have more on the breaking news. The Attorney general Barr says the Mueller report is nearly 400 pages long, is being redacted right now and will be ready for release by mid-April.
WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, CNN: The breaking news, a new letter just submitted to Congress Attorney General Bill Barr provides some more details about Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report and promises it will be ready for release by mid-April if not sooner. Though there will be redactions.
Let's ask our legal and political experts about Barr's new revelations. And Jeffrey Toobin, we've been discussing this, specifically what stands out the most to you in this letter?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, CNN: The fact that Robert Mueller is participating at least in some way in this process, because if Mueller publicly embraces the redactions in his own report that Barr makes, I think that is going to give Barr a tremendous amount of political cover, which he's going to need because Democrats are going to come after him if he redacts anything other than a very small amount.
So obviously the most important question is how much is redacted, but if it's - this is a substantial amount and Mueller embraces those redactions, I think Barr is going to be in much better political shape than if Mueller had not been involved at all.
BLITZER: That's an important point. Gloria, in the letter the Attorney General says that in making the redactions for various legal reasons, security reasons, "The Special Counsel is assisting us in this process." And as Jeffrey points out, that potentially could be so significant if the Special Counsel Robert Mueller endorses everything that Bill Barr does.
GLORIA BORGER, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Right and Mueller is not going to talk about that unless he's called to testify. But I think having him part of the process is important. Don't forget, he wasn't part of the process when Barr did his four-page letter, that was something that Barr did with Rosenstein where they made the decision that they were not going to prosecute or they didn't see that anyone should prosecute on obstruction.
What would also struck me here is that Barr sort of did a little prebuttal here to use a political term, because he was clearly upset that Congressman Nadler and others have called his four-page letter a summary of what was in this 400-page report and he said, "No, it wasn't, it was just the bottom line."
BLITZER: So the principal conclusions.
BORGER: Principal conclusions.
BLITZER: Which is what he promised to present in an initial letter.
BORGER: Exactly. So what he's doing is preparing everyone for a lot more in the Mueller report. And he wants to make it very clear that it was not his intent to tell you what was in it, but just to tell you what its bottom line was. And so he's kind of saying that in advance and I also think he's trying to sort of fast-track this. He's saying, "OK, you're going to hear it by mid-April. We're going to have hearings on May 1 and May 2nd. I'm going to come and testify and then we're done with this. I'm done. It's over."
BLITZER: The principal conclusions on collusion and obstruction ...
BLITZER: ... that was in that four-page letter. What are you hearing, Rebecca, from lawmakers?
REBECCA BUCK, POLITICAL REPORTER, CNN: Well, Democrats obviously, Wolf, are trying to keep up the political pressure on Barr to release as much as possible and not redact key information, not claim that the President has any sort of executive privilege to withhold key information. And so that's what we're going to hear over the next few weeks as far as going through this process, is Democrats continuing to call for the release of the full report as soon as possible even sooner possibly than mid-April. And, of course, reminding people that he needs to come testify on Capitol Hill to be able to defend the decisions he made in releasing this report.
BLITZER: He did say, Sabrina, that he's willing to testify before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees May 1st and May 2nd. You know the lawmakers are going to have a lot of questions for him.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Absolutely and Congressman Jerry Nadler, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is already giving us a glimpse of what's to come. Democrats are certainly going to press Barr on the rationale behind his four-page letter and more specifically how and why he so swiftly was able to make the determination that the Special Counsel did not have sufficient evidence to bring forward charges of obstruction of justice against the President. I think they'll also ask of whether there have been any form of communications between the White House and the Justice Department throughout this process and they also have raised some concerns already about the redactions and you can expect Democrats to press Barr on what sort of decision-making went behind the Justice Department determining which of these aspects of the report needed to be redacted.
I think that to Jeffrey's point though if Mueller embraces some of those reductions and it does take away from the argument by Democrats that there is an effort here to try and protect the President and prevent the release of incriminating information about the President's associates, but I also think you could fully expect that after Barr has testified and when Democrats deem it to be appropriate, they will also call on Robert Mueller himself to testify on Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: We're going to take a quick break. When we come back the other really big, big story, that's unfolding today. The President of the United States threatening to completely shut down all traffic between the United States and Mexico next week. Next week. We'll have that and more when we come back.
We're back with our political and legal experts. And Jeffrey Toobin, the President - he threatened to shut down completely the U.S.-Mexico border next week because of all the illegal traffic coming into the United States. What's your reaction?
TOOBIN: Well, he probably does have the legal authority to shut down the legal border crossings. He is the head of the military and someone who controls the borders. It would cause economic chaos. There is a tremendous amount of traffic that goes between the two countries on a normal day. But if he wanted to exercise his authority at least for some period of time I think he could do it.
BLITZER: Gloria, he took a victory lap of sorts at a rally in Michigan last night and he really went off on the Democrats. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The collusion delusion is over. Robert Mueller was a god to the Democrats, was a god to them until he said there was no collusion. Little pencil-neck Adam Schiff got the smallest thinnest neck I've ever seen. Well, we don't really know there could still have been some Russia collusions. Sick, these are sick people.
They came from the valleys, they came from the mountains, they came out of the damn rivers, I don't know what you were doing in the river. I have a better education than them, I'm smarter than them, I went to the best schools, they didn't, much more beautiful house, much more beautiful apartment, much more beautiful everything. The Democrats have to now decide whether they will continue defrauding
the public with ridiculous bullshit. "Darling, I want to watch television." I'm sorry, the wind isn't blowing. Wind, windmills, resistance, resist, resist, the rush to the border, another two caravans now are pouring up. They're all met by the lawyers and they say, "Say the following phrase. I am very afraid for my life. I am afraid for my life."
OK. And then I look at the guy, he looks like he just got out of the ring. He's a heavyweight champion of the world. He's a Frenchman. It's a big fat con job, folks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It sounds a little bit like a re-election strategy in the works.
BORGER: Well, what else can you say about it, wolf? It's almost hard to describe. Here's a President who arguably had last week one of the best weeks of his presidency with the Mueller report on obstruction, for example, the Barr letter. And instead he is going back to the way he was during the campaign and maybe this will work for him and maybe it won't, but he's full of grievance, he's full of the need to say, "I'm better than you are." I'm better than my political opponents. I have a bigger house. I have a bigger apartment," et cetera, et cetera.
And then he has the need to say that whatever they believe in is phony. So the resistance is stupid and ridiculous and asylum seekers are part of a big fat con job. So, yes, maybe it is part of his reelection strategy, but I think in a nutshell there, what we see is the real Donald Trump. I mean this is this is who Donald Trump is and let's not mention the language coming from the podium of a President of the United States, highly inappropriate, but this is who he is.
SIDDIQUI: Well, it's interesting that President obviously feels emboldened following the conclusion of the Mueller investigation. He's continuing to claim that he has been exonerated when in fact Barr's letter pointed out that the Special Counsel specifically did not exonerate the President, they were simply inconclusive on the question of obstruction of justice.
But he's going back to his base first strategy as his reelection campaign is mounting. You see him going very heavily on the issue of immigration, which has very much been the pillar of his presidency. The question is whether or not he has a ceiling in terms of his support for some of these more far-reaching proposals.
We saw the backlash when he declared the national emergency at the border. I don't think he's going to get a great deal of support from members of Congress if he chooses to unilaterally shut down the border, especially when it's worth pointing out. The administration is looking to Congress to ratify a replacement for a NAFTA by this summer. BLITZER: Yes. You grew up in San Diego, so you know the kind of
traffic that goes between the U.S. and Mexico in both directions.
BUCK: Absolutely, Wolf, and it's worth noting that the Mayor of San Diego Kevin Faulconer is a Republican. And so if the President does try to move forward with this plan to close the border, he's going to get an earful not only from Democrats also from the Republican Mayor of San Diego.
By the way, a hundred thousand jobs in San Diego, this is Faulconer's number, are tied directly to cross-border trade. And so that is the effect on people's lives, their livelihoods that you could see from a decision like this.
BORGER: Yes. It's a stunning amount of economic dislocation that he could that he could cause $13 billion in 2017 of agricultural imports from Mexico into the United States. I mean - and suddenly he can, as Jeffrey points out, he can do this but he's going to have a lot of Republicans not just the Mayor of San Diego, but a lot of Republicans out West saying, "What are you doing to our economy? We're scared enough as it is."
BLITZER: The stakes are enormous ramifications could be so, so significant. Stick around, there's more. Troubling news coming out involving North Korea. New evidence North Korea is finishing work at one of its rocket facilities. Are tensions with Kim Jong-Un now on the rise?
Here's breaking news, just now President Trump said he reversed reverse sanctions in North Korea last week partly because conditions there are so dire just weeks after President Trump walked out of the summit with Kim Jong-Un. There are now new signs North Korea may be putting one of its weapon sites back in business, a move that could pose a serious threat to the United States and its allies. Brian Todd has been looking into all of this for us. Brian, what you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Wolf, there are real worries tonight about Kim Jong-Un's efforts to ramp this rocket testing facility back up. He had promised to close that place, but that was before things fell apart between Kim and President Trump in Hanoi. Tonight,
Tonight, the intelligence and military officials in the West are watching to see if Kim is resuming his aggressive posture.
TODD(off-camera): Tonight, a perilous crossroads has been reached in the delicate relationship between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un. Kim has almost completely restored his long range satellite rocket launch facility at Tongch'ang-ri, according to South Korean intelligence. Kim once promised to dismantle the place and last summer it looked like he was. One mobile building on tracks had its roof and the walls taken off. But over the last month, that building's walls and roof appear to have been added back on and the building has been moved back into position.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH YUN, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR NORTH KOREA POLICY: This sends a very, very negative signal. If they launched a satellite launch, it will be a very negative signal that would I think drive Trump crazy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD(off-camera): So far no response tonight from the White House or the State Department to the activity at that site. Although the North Koreans claim Tongch'ang-ri is used for rocket launches which put commercial satellites into space, those launches are a major security concern for the U.S. and its allies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL GREEN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: These so called rockets also are long-range ballistic missiles. And these so called satellite payload is testing to put nuclear weapons on the payload. So these are weapons systems and the UN Security Council over the last 13 years has repeatedly told North Korea that they must not do this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD(off-camera): This comes only a month after the failed summit in Hanoi. President Trump walking away when Kim pushed for almost all sanctions against him to be dropped in exchange for shutting down one major nuclear facility. Analysts say it was a setback Kim likely didn't expect.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YUN: I do believe he was humiliated in Hanoi. Remember, it took 65 hours to get there by train and then 65 hours to get back. I mean, this was billed as a big summit between leaders of two great countries and he's going back empty handed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD(off-camera): With tension in the air, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is now scheduled to meet with President Trump in Washington on April 11th. For now, President Trump says he preferred to hold off on imposing more sanctions on Kim's regime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think it's very important that you maintain that relationship at least as long as you can. But we get along very well. We have a very good understanding, so I didn't think that those sanctions were necessary at this time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD(off-camera): One expert calls the state of the relationship between Trump and Kim, this no man's land, a "freeze for freeze" situation. North Korea has frozen its nuclear and missile tests. While America has frozen its military exercises with South Korea. This expert says this is not a good situation to be in.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREEN: A freeze for freeze is a bad idea because the North Koreans stop testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles but do nothing in this arrangement to give up nuclear weapons or allow any verification that they have frozen and in fact there's multiple pieces of evidence demonstrating they continue to expand their arsenal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: That freeze for freeze arrangement is also dangerous on the American side. Analysts say with those joint exercises between the U.S. and South Korea now frozen, America and its ally are losing their military edge more each day, losing their readiness for a possible attack from North Korea, Wolf.
BLITZER: Another significant development there. Brian Todd, thank you very much. Coming up, breaking news, Attorney General Barr tells Congress the Mueller report is nearly 400 pages long is being scrubbed, the sensitive information will be ready for released by mid- April but congressional Democrats say that's not good enough. And President Trump warns he'll close the entire U.S.-Mexico southern border next week and he'll keep it closed if Mexico doesn't somehow stop all illegal immigration into the United States.
Happening Now, breaking news, mid-April release. The Attorney General reveals his time table for sending the Mueller report to Congress. We're breaking down all of the new details from William Barr. A new reaction from top Democrats who are not satisfied. Everyone will read it.
Barr says he's aiming for transparency even as he outlines the type of information that's being scrubbed.