Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Rep. Denny Heck (D) Washington; Putin Defends Trump; Rep. Adam Schiff (D) California Says Attorney General William Barr Is Acting Like Trump's Roy Cohn; Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin Threatens To Never Return To Hearings By Committee; Trump Denies Renewal Of Family Separation Policy; William Barr Faces Congress. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 9, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:01]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And he denies he's considering bringing it back, while at the same time appearing to justify it as a deterrent.

Stars indicted. A high-profile Hollywood couple and more than a dozen other parents are slapped with serious new charges in the college admissions scam, as prosecutors up the pressure on them.

And Putin defends Trump. Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks publicly about the Mueller report for the first time, offering a scathing assessment of the special counsel's investigation and strong backing for President Trump.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news tonight, the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is threatening to issue a subpoena and go to court if necessary to obtain the full unredacted report on Russian election interference by the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

That followed testimony by the attorney general, William Barr, who told lawmakers he expects to release a redacted version of the report within a week, leaving the stage set for a sharp showdown between House Democrats and the Trump administration.

I will talk about the breaking news and more with Congressman Denny Heck of the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents and analysts are also standing by.

First, let's get details on the breaking news.

Our Political Correspondent, Sara Murray, is joining us.

Sara, Democrats clearly are not happy with what they heard today from the attorney general.

SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. A battle is obviously brewing, as the attorney general makes it clear he's just days away from having a report ready, and Democrats are already making it very painfully clear that's not going to be enough.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): Attorney General William Barr telling lawmakers he will soon be ready to share special counsel Robert Mueller's report.

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think that, from my standpoint, by the -- by within a week, I will be in a position to release the report to the public.

MURRAY: But not the complete version Democrats are clamoring for.

BARR: I don't intend this at this stage to send the full unredacted report to the committee.

MURRAY: Barr's comments setting up a fight between Congress and the Trump administration over the fate of the Mueller report.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee already authorized to subpoena for the full report and its underlying evidence. So far, Democrats haven't moved forward with it. But that could soon change.

REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): I presume we're going to get the redacted report within a week. When we do so, if we don't get everything, we will issue the subpoena and go to court.

MURRAY: Barr's resistance setting off a pointed exchange over 6(e), the rule governing the release of grand jury material. That material is meant to be kept secret, except in certain circumstances. Barr says this isn't one of them.

BARR: I will have to say that, until someone shows me a provision in 6(e) that permits its release, Congress doesn't get 6(e). And the chairman of the Judiciary Committee is free to go to court if he feels one of those exceptions is applicable.

MURRAY: Instead, Barr says Congress will only get explanations for the redactions.

BARR: We will color-code the excisions from the report and we will provide explanatory notes describing the basis for each redaction.

MURRAY: Barr also under fire today for how he crafted his summary of Mueller's conclusions.

REP. NITA LOWEY (D-NY): All we have is your four-page summary, which seems to cherry-pick from the report to draw the most favorable conclusion possible for the president.

MURRAY: Barr acknowledged Mueller's team may have wanted more of their original wording included, even as he defended his letter. BARR: I suspect that they probably wanted more put out. I felt that I

should state the bottom-line conclusions. And I tried to use special counsel Mueller's own language in doing that.

MURRAY: Only about 100 words in the four-page letter were Mueller's. Barr added that Mueller declined to weigh in on it.

BARR: Mr. Mueller's team did not play a role in drafting that document, although we offered him the opportunity to review it before we sent it out. And he declined that.

MURRAY: Barr also acknowledged the White House counsel was given a heads-up about the initial summary sent to Congress.

BARR: We did advise the White House Counsel's Office that the letters were being sent, but they were not allowed or even asked to make any changes to the letters.

MURRAY: But he refused to say whether the White House has seen the full report.

BARR: I have said what I'm going to say about the report today.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, even though Barr was adamant that grand jury information not be made public, he sounded a little bit more willing potentially to share some of the classified information at least with members of Congress.

He also said it would be very unfortunate if Congress got the full report and leaked it -- Wolf.

[18:05:91]

MURRAY: Sara, stay with us.

Evan Perez, our justice -- senior justice correspondent, is with us as well was.

It was very interesting, Evan. The attorney genera revealed today that Robert Mueller's team was offered an opportunity to review that four-page summary of the so-called principal conclusions of the Mueller report. But they -- Mueller and his team declined. What's the significance of that?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think that -- I think that that was one of the most significant things I heard during the testimony today.

So far, Bill Barr has -- his strategy has been politically to sort of lock arms with Robert Mueller, to a certain extent with Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, to present a united front, as they face this criticism from members of Congress, especially Democrats. And I think what you saw there was perhaps a little daylight, that

Mueller was given a chance to look at this letter, he declined. He also -- in Sara's piece, you heard him say that perhaps there were members of the Mueller team that were unhappy that more of their work was not reflected in that letter.

And I think that was an acknowledgement that you heard there that surprised me, frankly.

BLITZER: Yes. And he was asked about that.

Mueller, Sara, he was asked that about these reports. You have seen -- we have all seen the reports that some members of Mueller's team were not happy with what they saw on that four-page principal conclusion summary. Listen to how the attorney general responded to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: I suspect that they probably wanted more put out, but, in my view, I was not interested in putting out summaries or trying to summarize, because I think any summary, regardless of who prepares it, not only runs the risk of being under-inclusive or over-inclusive, but also would trigger a lot of discussion and analysis that really should await everything coming out at once.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: You surprised he was willing to answer that question about grumblings behind the scenes among the Mueller team?

MURRAY: I mean, I'm just as surprised as Evan, because you saw him. He said, I suspect that this is how they were feeling.

There would be a lot of ways for Bill Barr just to not answer that question, to say, I'm not going to get into that, I'm not going to get into our internal discussions right now, before we make the report public, or to say, I haven't had any direct conversations with anyone on Mueller's team who's expressed their dissatisfaction with me.

And, instead, he kind of just decided to wade into the middle of it and say, well, I think this is probably what they wanted me to do. But here's what I did. And here's why. And he certainly did also open himself up to some other criticism there, because we also saw lawmakers saying, well, if these summaries were created, why didn't you just release that publicly?

BLITZER: One very sensitive question, Evan, that was not addressed today was that, if Mueller's intention -- if it was Mueller's intention for Congress to make a final decision on obstruction of justice or if it was Mueller's intention to let the attorney general and the deputy attorney general make that conclusion.

PEREZ: Right.

These are moments in these hearings where some of us wish we could like get a question, ask the question ourselves, because I was surprised that nobody asked him that question. That's, frankly, the most important question that people have right now, which was the fact that Mueller did not reach a conclusion on obstruction, where he said that there was evidence on both sides, where he said it wasn't an exoneration, it wasn't obviously enough to bring charges.

The question that everybody has to ask right now is, did he intend for the members of Congress to actually pick this up? Or did he want Barr and Rod Rosenstein to make the decision? I think that was very surprising that no one asked that question.

MURRAY: And my sort of piggyback on that would be, well, how can you make a determination like that if you never interviewed the president? Why didn't they move forward and try to push for this interview with the president?

I think -- I suspect that's another question people are going to...

(CROSSTALK)

PEREZ: Well, good thing we have tomorrow.

BLITZER: Some of those questions -- hey, Barr is coming back to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee tomorrow.

PEREZ: Yes.

BLITZER: But it's an important question. Maybe we won't know the answer until Mueller himself is before Congress and testifies, assuming he will one of these days.

PEREZ: Yes, exactly.

BLITZER: Guys, thank you very, very much.

Meanwhile, the House -- the White House, I should say, is consumed with immigration chaos after President Trump fired key officials over at the Department of Homeland Security. And the president is weighing his next moves.

Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president made some denials. He also made some false claims.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly did, Wolf.

President Trump appears to be slamming the brakes on least part of his immigration plans, claiming his administration is not looking at resuming its policy of family separations at the border. The president tried to falsely blame Barack Obama for this policy, which is widely regarded as highly inhumane.

It was a moment that showed some separation over here at the White House, but that was between Mr. Trump and the truth.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): It could be a trial balloon that's already popped, as President Trump denied what administration officials were telling reporters, that he was considering a return to a zero tolerance policy of separating migrant children from their families at the border.

QUESTION: Will you bring it back?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not looking to do that.

[18:10:01]

ACOSTA: The president then tried to rewrite history, falsely claiming that Barack Obama had started the policy.

TRUMP: President Obama had child separation. Take a look. The press knows it. You know it. We all know it.

I didn't have -- I'm the one that stopped it.

ACOSTA: But that's not true. Top administration officials made it clear family separations could be a result of the zero tolerance policy, and then Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

JEFF SESSIONS, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you're smuggling a child, then we're going to prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you, probably, as required by law. If you don't want your child to be separated, then don't bring them across the border illegally.

ACOSTA: To Chief of Staff John Kelly.

JOHN KELLY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Yes, I am considering -- in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network, I am considering exactly that. They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents.

ACOSTA: Even as he was denying a return to zero tolerance, the president also appeared to justify family separations as a deterrent.

TRUMP: Once you don't have it, that's why you see many more people coming. They're coming like it's a picnic, because let's go to Disneyland.

ACOSTA: A senior administration official told reporters a different form of zero tolerance has been under consideration, something called binary choice, which would let migrant parents decide whether to be separated from their children or be incarcerated as a family.

That official told reporters, "Binary choice is a policy option that is being pursued as an area for contemplation by ICE, but it's not at a point where it's been fully developed enough."

But at a hearing, Attorney General William Barr appeared to close the door on separating families.

BARR: I support the president's policy, which is, we're not going to separate families.

ACOSTA: The Trump administration is also crafting plans to make asylum requests more difficult at the border, including creating strict new requirements for migrants who claim they fear conditions back in their home countries.

The president will have a new team at DHS to pursue that agenda, though he denied has been cleaning house at the apartment to make that happen.

TRUMP: Well, I never said I'm cleaning house. I don't know who came up with that expression. We have a lot of great people over there. We have bad laws.

ACOSTA: Administration officials were scrambling to answer other pressing questions on Capitol Hill, as the attorney general barely defended White House support for a court ruling that could scrap Obamacare.

REP. MATT CARTWRIGHT (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Trying to get it invalidated. And if you succeed, that many people will lose their coverage nationally from Medicaid and 750,000 from Pennsylvania alone, right?

BARR: I'm just saying that, if you think it's such an outrageous position, you have nothing to worry about. Let the courts do their job.

ACOSTA: And Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin acknowledged his department had been in touch with the White House in anticipation of demands from House Democrats to see the president's tax returns.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I believe that the communication between our legal department and the White House general counsel was -- was informational, that we obviously had read in the press that we were expecting this.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, a administration official said the incoming acting secretary of DHS, Kevin McAleenan, has the complete support of the president.

But that official also said one of the problems at the department is that it's overrun with career officials. But guess what? Kevin McAleenan is one of those career officials. He served under President Obama.

As for family separations, there were expectations -- or I should say there were exceptions when that happened during the Obama administration, but it wasn't the Obama administration's policy.

As for this current administration, officials admit it could take up to two years to locate some of the children who had been separated from their parents under President Trump -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So sad, indeed.

All right, Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.

Let's get some more on all of this.

Democratic Congressman Denny Heck of Washington state is joining us, a member of the Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

REP. DENNY HECK (D), WASHINGTON: You're welcome.

BLITZER: Do you support the plan of the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, to issue a subpoena for the unredacted, the complete, report after Barr delivers his redacted version within the next week?

HECK: Absolutely., totally, 100 percent.

Look, transparency ought to be the watchword here, Wolf. In fact, inherent in the definition of democracy is the free flow of information and an openness. And, as the saying goes, democracies die in darkness.

Secondly, he's only going to make matters worse if he withholds information. In fact, he's going to make a hot mess out of it. If he submits a redacted version, then -- and a subpoena will be issued, according to Chairman Nadler.

And then it's going to go to court. And oh, by the way, I like our chances in court. But, more importantly, the public pressure will continue to mount, because they will not have yet answered the question, why are you with holding all this information?

And so, thirdly, let me just say, Wolf, that this -- this is not going anywhere good for him, and he ought to cease and desist, and he ought to provide the information. I find it a great irony that, as you know, I have the privilege to serve on the Intel Committee.

That means, twice a week, I go three floors below the Capitol Building, in which I'm standing. I go through three bank vault doors. I give up my electronics and receive top-secret briefings on the most sensitive of information.

[18:15:09]

And so for them to suggest that we can't see all this material is prima facie absurd.

BLITZER: Well, do you think there should be two versions of this report, one that you and your colleagues, for example, on the Intelligence Committee should see, unredacted version, including all the sensitive intelligence-related information, and a second version, a public version that the American public gets to see? HECK: Well, I don't think Congress ought to have to rely on a

political appointee to decide what information we can and cannot see, especially in light of the fact that last summer he had already indicated what his bias was when he wrote the unsolicited 19-page single-spaced memo saying that he didn't think that obstruction of justice ought to be pursued and there was no legal basis for it, despite the fact that that just totally isn't true.

BLITZER: Well, what if the intelligence community decides what needs to be kept secret because it could compromise what they call the most sensitive intelligence information, sources and methods?

HECK: At a minimum, the Intelligence Committee members, Democrats and Republicans, ought to see 100 percent of this material, 100 percent.

BLITZER: What about information that could compromise ongoing criminal investigations? As you know, the special counsel referred several cases to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York or the U.S. attorney here in Washington, D.C.

If that would compromise those investigations, do you think those should be classified, those should be redacted?

HECK: I would defer to my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee for that matter. Obviously, the members of the Intelligence Committee are primarily interested in the counterintelligence information that might be contained in the report.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, the attorney general says Congress might be able to see some of that classified information under what he called appropriate safeguards.

Do you think that you guys can work this out with the attorney general, with Jerry Nadler and with Robert Mueller, who apparently is helping the attorney general scrub that document?

HECK: So the history of how these things come about is, in fact, that there's ultimately a negotiated settlement.

And I hope for that for not only the content and the substance of what is in the report, but also for the benefit of the American people, who clearly want to see all the information. They want all the cards laid on the table.

BLITZER: Because the attorney general also says he won't be asking a court, a federal court, to allow for the release of very sensitive grand jury material in the Mueller report.

Do you want the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Jerry Nadler, to take that step and demand that a court review the grand jury information and potentially release it?

HECK: I think that would be a prudent step, for sure.

BLITZER: Because Barr says he's not going to do that, at least not now. How concerned are you, Congressman, that the attorney general wouldn't say if the White House had been briefed on the report?

HECK: Well, it's consistent with everything else that has gone on for the last two years, remembering that this is the president who first and initially claimed that there was no Russian interference in the election whatsoever.

And then this was the president who then changed and said, well, maybe it wasn't a hoax, but they didn't actually support or engage in these activities to benefit my candidacy.

And, of course, the unanimous conclusion of the intelligence community was that that was not the case. They evolve their position to fit the circumstances the moment.

But, Wolf, if you look back over history, I think what is likely to happen is that, sooner or later, this material is going to come forward. And I think, again, that the president is being counterproductive, and Attorney General Barr, more specifically, being counterproductive in suppressing it, because it's a little bit like putting a lid on a boiling pot of water.

It just builds pressure, and it will out.

BLITZER: On another very sensitive subject, the president today falsely stated that it was the Obama administration that implemented those family separations along the border with Mexico, and he took credit for stopping the policy. What's your reaction to that?

HECK: So what we need know and what the facts are, Wolf, is that we have the lowest level of illegal crossings at the beginning of the Trump administration, and they have done nothing but skyrocketed.

Once again, his rhetoric and his action is making the situation even worse. I heard Chief of Staff Kelly on the previous news item indicate that they were considering implementing the child separation policy, which they did as a deterrent.

My question to the now departed Chief of Staff John Kelly and President Trump is, how's that working out for you? The fact of the matter is that his rhetoric and his actions have exacerbated the situation.

And, notably, in his withdrawal of aid to the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, where we're actually trying to get at the root cause of why it is that people flee gang violence and the threat of all sorts of economic deprivation, to seek asylum, what we ought to be doing is attacking the root cause of this in order to stem that flow.

BLITZER: Yes, that was John Kelly. He was then the secretary of homeland security

[18:20:01] Only a few weeks after the president's inauguration, on March 6 of 2017, he said they were thinking of separating the kids from their parents as a deterrent to stop the illegal immigration into the United States.

Congressman Denny Heck, thanks so much for joining us.

HECK: You're welcome, sir.

BLITZER: The breaking news continues next with more on the battle over full access to the Mueller report. Does the attorney general actually have more leeway on what he can share with Congress than he's letting on?

Plus, more charges filed against the actress Lori Loughlin, her husband and others in the college admissions scandal -- why they're facing a new indictment tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:25:07]

BLITZER: We're following breaking news, the escalating showdown between House Democrats and the Trump administration over access to the full, unredacted Mueller report.

Let's dig deeper with our correspondents and our analysts.

David Swerdlick, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler, says he's going to subpoena the full, unredacted report soon after they get the redacted version. The attorney general says that will happen within the next week.

Did Bill Barr leave the chairman of the Judiciary Committee any choice?

DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN COMMENTATOR: I don't think he's leaving him much choice, Wolf.

If you look at what the attorney general said today, between his answers on the Mueller report and his answers about changing sides in the legal fight over Obamacare, the sum total of the message was, administration to Congress, shove it.

He basically was saying, we don't have to do anything that's not within the absolute narrowest letter of the law, regardless of the spirit of this investigation or why was conducted in the first place.

I have no doubt that Attorney General Barr is following the law. But what he's basically saying is, is that you, the Article I branch of Congress, don't have the right to this document that I and I alone have.

BLITZER: The attorney general wants to scrub the grand jury, the sensitive grand jury material. He said today it's up to Nadler, the chairman of the committee, to request that grand jury material. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARR: I think, if the chairman believes that he's entitled to receive it, he can move to the court for it.

REP. ED CASE (D-HI): Well, I will come back to this. It's your right to ask. So I'm asking, what is your intention?

BARR: My intention is not to ask for it at this stage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Does the attorney general have more leeway, more opportunity to get that grand jury material, if he goes to a court?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: He has multiple opportunities.

For one thing, he keeps talking about these categories as if they're immutable. first of all, he invented the four of them. There is no legal requirement to -- grand jury material, classified information, which he's not allowed to disclose.

But the other investigations and third parties, those are made-up categories. He -- and within each category, it's -- there's a lot of judgment calls to be made. Is it just grand jury testimony that can't be released or any subject that is covered within the grand jury? That's a big difference. And we don't know how that line is going to be drawn.

Most importantly, he could go to a court and say, it's in the public interest to release this grand jury testimony. And he would almost certainly win that case. He's choosing not to do that. Jerry Nadler is going to sue. It's going to be in the courts probably for months, and a much less certain fate for the disclosure of the grand jury material, if Nadler is the plaintiff, as opposed to Barr.

BLITZER: I want you to listen.

Kaitlan Collins, you're our White House correspondent. This is Congressman Adam Schiff -- he's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee -- responding to what he heard today from the attorney general.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): I think that's a betrayal of what he promised during his confirmation.

But it is what he was hired to do, which was to protect the president. The president wanted his own Roy Cohn, and apparently he's got one. But it is deeply concerning, and likewise that he wouldn't answer the question of whether he shared information about the Mueller report with the White House before he shared it with the Congress or the American people. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What are you hearing from the White House?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So it's interesting there at the end where he talked about how Bill Barr wouldn't say whether or not the White House had seen this report, because, before today, the White House and the Justice Department officials have gone on background to tell reporters, we haven't given the White House this report, they have not seen it. They just got a readout from Bill Barr's chief of staff right after he produced that summary.

And the White House said, we haven't seen it either, with Mick Mulvaney saying even on Sunday that no one in the West Wing had asked to see this report yet.

So when he wouldn't answer it today, he just said I'm not going to say anything else, I have gone as far as I'm going to go, it raised the question of whether or not that's changed and whether the White House has seen it.

We have asked the White House. They haven't answered whether or not anything is changed in that answer, but it did raise questions, because this thinking went that, if they had not seen it and they had not shared it, why wouldn't have just said the same today that they have said before?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Hold on just a second. We might have missed a moment there, but there's a reference there to Roy Cohn.

Roy Cohn was a reprehensible lawyer and is disgraced in Washington, D.C. Mr. Barr was just confirmed by the Senate. That includes, whether they like it or not, Democrats and Republicans. I recognize not all the Democrats voted for him. Many didn't.

But he was confirmed by the Senate as a man who had served honorably for decades. For the -- for Adam Schiff to say, this guy's like Roy Cohn is not acceptable. That's an apology that we should anticipate.

If you want to have a conversation in Washington, you cannot compare the attorney general to Roy Cohn. It's just unacceptable.

SWERDLICK: Phil, I think -- I think you're making a point that, yes, it's fine to say maybe that the attorney general is not in the category of Roy Cohn, who, as you say, is universally reviled in this country.

[18:30:02] But this strikes me as the president getting exactly what he wanted from Jeff Sessions, never got, and was so upset about, someone who would sit there in committee, cool as a cucumber, stonewall Congress, follow the very narrowest of the law but not give Congress and the American people what they want.

BLITZER: And I want you to remind our viewers about Roy Cohn. The President -- he was the President's lawyer at one point. And the President often would say he had hoped that Jeff Sessions as the Attorney General would be his Roy Cohn.

TOOBIN: In the 1950's, Roy Cohn was the Chief Counsel to Joseph McCarthy in some of his notorious investigations of alleged communist influence in the United States. And he made many, many unfounded accusations against people.

He then moved to New York and became a lawyer. He represented a lot of organized crime people and he was a real slick operator who was eventually disbarred. And I think to compare William Barr, whatever you think of him, to a disbarred mob lawyer is perhaps an overstatement on the part of Congressman Schiff.

COLLINS: Yes. And it's important to note that Bill Barr and the President did not have a personal relationship before he became Attorney General. He had been recommended to the President. The President knew him very loosely. But they did not have any kind relationship like Trump shared with Roy Cohn. And also, Bill Barr is an established lawyer with quite a reputation in Washington. And I'm not sure he is going to go put it on the line for President Trump in a way that someone like Roy Cohn would.

TOOBIN: But that's a great question, will he put it on the line, because his credibility is on the line here too. And if we see a report riddled with redactions that really saps it of its true meaning rather than a word here and there, I do think his reputation will change a great deal. You're right about his reputation now and he's banking on that. And Trump was banking on that in appointing him but let's see how the redactions go.

BLITZER: I remember, as I just said, the President had often said he wanted Sessions as the Attorney General to be his Roy Cohn.

TOOBIN: And that surely is what Adam Schiff was referring to.

SWERDLICK: Right. And he's getting what he wants now exactly in that hearing.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point.

Barr did say something, Phil Mudd, and you're an expert on national security, that at least some of the classified information that might be in the Mueller report under appropriate safeguards might be available to Congress. There's concern there could be leaks, as you know. But what do you think?

MUDD: Let me tell you how to interpret this. This is really interesting. Appropriate safeguard is significant. If you give the Congress a document and members of Congress along with their staff gets access to the document, I guarantee you that thing is going to get leaked, maybe not the paper but the staffers will leak it.

There's another way to think about appropriate safeguards. We're not going to bring in staff. We're going to bring in only members of Congress. They can read it. They can see it. They can't retain it and then we're going to retain the document ourselves and take it out. That term of appropriate safeguards means a lot. If it means access by staff members to the document, I guarantee you that thing is going to get leaked.

BLITZER: Well, you know what, as far as somebody who has covered a lot of stuff in Washington, the most explosive sensitive leaks have not come from the legislative branch of the U.S. government but have come from the executive branch of the U.S. government.

MUDD: Are you saying that CIA leaked something?

BLITZER: And we're talking major, major leaks. They've come from the executive branch, not necessarily the legislative branch. There's a lot more we need to discuss. We'll do that right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:35:00]

BLITZER: Welcome back. You know, Jeffrey Toobin, it was quite a little exchange we just saw over at the House Financial Services. Committee of the Chair Representative Maxine Waters went back and forth with the witness, the Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, who was supposed to leave. He had other business. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVEN MNUCHIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: If you'd wish to keep me here so that I don't have my important meeting and continue to grill me, then we can do that. I will cancel my meeting and I will not be back here. I will be very clear. If that's the way you'd like to have this relationship.

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): Thank you. The gentleman, the Secretary has agreed to stay to hear all of the rest of the members. Please cancel your meeting and respect our time.

MNUCHIN: What I've told you is I thought it was respectful that you'd let me leave at 5:15, which is the current --

WATERS: You are free to leave any time you want. You may go any time you want.

MNUCHIN: Please dismiss everybody. I believe you're supposed to take the gavel and bang it. That's the appropriate --

WATERS: Please do not instruct me as to how I'm to conduct this committee.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And it went on and on.

TOOBIN: You know, you usually have to go to a junior high school student council to see debate at that level. I'm supposed to leave in 15 minutes. I mean, come on. I mean, the problem with these administrators is they're not used to having congressional oversight. For two years, the republicans didn't ask him any questions. And now, he's like, oh, I have the meeting at 5:15. COLLINS: And he had been there for several hours giving testimony. And I think sometimes when you watch these hearings, especially now that democrats are in charge with Trump administration officials, they often want to needle them on certain issues. But to see that kind of fireworks display, at the end of that, she is the Chair of the Committee that conducts oversight of his department. So I don't think that's going to invite any good interactions in the future.

BLITZER: And, David, she is also the Chair of this important committee. She is the one that the President of the United States often ridicules, calls her low I.Q. Maxine Waters.

DAVID: Right. The President has said that publicly several times about Congresswoman Waters. Two things in there specifically disrespectful, Wolf.

[18:40:00]

First, he said his important meeting implying that the meeting they weren't having then and there wasn't important. Second, telling her that she should gavel out the committee as if he's running the meeting, not her.

To the point that Jeffrey made about republicans not being used to oversight, it's also, and I think some viewers are not going to like this, but it's also the case that I think you have a situation of a wealthy powerful white man not liking to be told what to do by an African-American woman sitting congressional committee chair.

And the reason I say that is because the President with impunity says over and over again that Congresswoman Waters has a low I.Q., he has said nasty disparaging things about other prominent black women, including black women who work at this network. It's a pattern in this administration. I would like to at least know more about what Secretary Mnuchin thought.

But I think two years into this administration, we're entitled to get some answers on things like that even when it's not completely clear.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Phil.

MUDD: David nailed it. And let's be clear here, we have consensus on the panel. If you're going to go in front of your oversight committee, you can win on facts, you can't win on emotion. You cannot sit there and say a 5:15 meeting is more important than me sitting here and answering questions in public from the Chairman of the Oversight Committee. If you're rating this as boxing match, Mnuchin gets a knock down and Maxine Waters get a victory. I don't think there's any question. I suspect he's walking home saying, I wish I didn't do that, because he should not have.

BLITZER: It was, Jeffrey, very testy.

TOOBIN: It's testy and, you know, I don't think it's going to be in the history books of the Trump administration, that particular exchange. But I do think, David, is like that race permeates a lot of these things. And when you look at how Donald Trump talks about African-Americans and Tweets about them, this is part of that story.

BLITZER: Yes. Everybody stick around. There's a lot more news we're following, including later tonight, there's a CNN Democratic Presidential Town hall with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Erin Burnett will moderate. That's at 10:00 P.M. Eastern. Another important note tomorrow night, I'll moderate a Presidential Town Hall with Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. Two important Town Halls tonight and tomorrow night, 10:00 P.M. Eastern only here on CNN.

And there's more breaking news. More than a dozen parents, Including the actress, Lori Loughlin, they are slapped with new charges at the college admission scandal.

And Russian President Vladimir Putin breaks his silence on the Mueller report.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:47:04] BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following.

New charges against the actress Lori Loughlin, her designer husband and 14 other wealthy parents accused of illegally buying their children's way into top universities.

CNN's National Correspondent, Brynn Gingras is working the story for us.

Brynn, the parents are now also being charged with money laundering. Update our viewers.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, 16 parents, as you said, Wolf, including Lori Loughlin, now facing an additional charge of money laundering in a superseding indictment. Essentially, the stakes just got higher for her, Loughlin's husband and 14 other people.

Let's go back, though, to last month. That's when 33 parents were charged in a criminal complaint of the charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Prosecutors detailed evidence they said they had against the people connected to that scam. Remember recorded phone conversations, e-mails.

Well, sources were telling CNN that that was a starting point for the government. They had more evidence against these parents and those who didn't strike a deal with prosecutors ran the risk of facing more charges and that's what we saw. Today, just 24 hours after the U.S. attorney's office announced 13 parents and a coach did take a plea deal including Felicity Huffman.

Now, sources say the government plans on asking for six months to two years, or up to two years for parents connected to the scam. Court filings show prosecutors likely will recommend a little less time for Huffman and ultimately a judge will make the final call.

Huffman, though, yesterday sounding very remorseful in her statement, and that was somewhat different than what we have seen from Loughlin lately. Really, last week, she was signing autographs at the airport before her initial court appearance. So, she'll have to go before a judge again. This time, though, Wolf, with that additional money laundering charge.

BLITZER: That scandal continues.

All right. Brynn, thank you very much. Brynn Gingras reporting.

Other news we're following, the Russian President Vladimir Putin is speaking out about the Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Moscow's election meddling and blasting it with words we have heard coming from the White House.

Let's go to our Senior International Correspondent, Matthew Chance. He's joining us live from Moscow.

Matthew, Putin dismissed Mueller's investigation into possible collusion, calling it total nonsense.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. And he continued to back the U.S. president as well despite all the problems in this U.S.-Russian relationship. The one thing that's constant, Vladimir Putin's continued support and positive words for his U.S. counterpart. He spoke out again tonight in defense of the U.S. president and against that now Russian collusion probe.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE (voice-over): This is the first time Vladimir Putin has mentioned the Mueller report in public since the Russia probe was brought to its anticlimactic end. Unsurprisingly, the Russian president was scathing in his condemnation.

The investigation was a dark page in American history, he told a televised panel discussion in St. Petersburg.

[18:50:02] He also reminded the audience it found none of the collusion, as he put it, Mueller was trying to find.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The collusion delusion is over.

CHANCE: It's not the first time Moscow has seen in lockstep with the White House.

(on camera): Are you concerned that the investigations into Russia are going to turn up more secret meetings?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please stop spreading lie and false news.

CHANCE (voice-over): In fact, similarities in messaging, even language probably helped fuel collusion suspicions in the first place.

But the allegations of Russian interference in U.S. politics remain, like this secretive troll factory in St. Petersburg, where online attempts were made to amplify social discord in America and the Democratic Party email hacks allegedly carried out by Russian military intelligence, released by WikiLeaks in a bid to influence the 2016 presidential election campaign. But the U.S. attorney general's recent summary of the Mueller report, in which he said didn't find evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the U.S. president and the Kremlin, has left both Trump and Moscow feeling vindicated.

And, like the U.S. president, the Kremlin is on the offensive against Trump's enemies.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): See, what is happening is that those groups that attacked the legitimately elected president do not agree with the choice of the American people. We have never seen this in the history of the U.S.

TRUMP: Wouldn't it be great if we actually got along with Russia? Am I wrong in saying that?

CHANCE: Russia has already been sanctioned by the United States for its election interference, and could face more in the weeks ahead. But it continues to cast itself and President Trump as victims of the same political foes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHANCE: Well, Wolf, there are at least three new sets of sanctions, potentially heading Russia's way. We don't know the exact timeframe but we do know is that President Trump is likely to have a high degree of discretion about when and if to apply any new measures. And so, I expect the Kremlin will be choosing its words very carefully, indeed, in the weeks ahead.

Back to you.

BLITZER: I suspect you're right.

Matthew Chance in Moscow, thanks very much.

Breaking news, next. Early results from Israel's high-stakes election, they are coming in. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival, they are both claiming victory in a race that's too close to call.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:57:08] BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're following.

While President Trump seemingly went all out to give election boost to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, exit polls now show Israel's vote is simply too close to call. Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party and more centrist Blue and White Party are each claiming victory, but each would need to enlist smaller parties to form a new government.

Let's go live to Tel Aviv. CNN's Oren Liebermann is joining us right now.

So, Oren, update us on the very latest.

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's exactly because of those smaller parties that Prime President Benjamin Netanyahu is claiming victory. He says he has their support and that's what allows him to know that his right-wing bloc, coalition partners. He says he has their support and he says that's what allows him to know that his right bloc is going to give him a clear path to victory.

Despite that, just a short time ago, his rival, his former chief of staff Benny Gantz claimed victory, expecting to be the biggest party coming out of the election and essentially demanding in a democracy to have a chance to form a government. Netanyahu will be speaking on his way here. We could expect him any moment now.

The celebration here has begun because they're confident in what Netanyahu has said, that he has the support of the parties he needs to put together a government. If that's correct, if he has the support he needs and his numbers hold up, it, of course, would give him a record fifth term in office, as well as making him the Israel's longest serving prime minister this summer. We'll see what he has to say when he arrives here shortly -- Wolf.

BLITZER: As you know, Oren, the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he made a very strong push to align himself with President Trump throughout this campaign. Is there a strong indication that that strategy may have worked?

LIEBERMANN: I certainly would say there's a strong feeling that it has worked. We saw here signs for Trump for America. It was clear to all the voters here that President Donald Trump apparently was blatantly campaigning or openly campaigning for Netanyahu in terms of giving a major political gift in the last two weeks before the election.

What are those? Well, recognition of U.S. sovereignty of the Golan Heights a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visiting the Western Wall with Netanyahu, as well as designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terror organization. Netanyahu take some credit there, saying it was at Netanyahu's request.

Netanyahu was happy to play up that relationship. Trump, it looks like, was happy to have that relationship played up. Did it make the difference, Wolf? It certainly didn't hurt by the looks of this celebration behind me. It is getting louder, perhaps an indication that Netanyahu is moments away from arriving here.

BLITZER: We're looking at some live pictures now. We see the prime minister and his wife, Sara, there in the crowd. He's going to be making a statement. I'm sure he's going to be declaring victory.

Benny Gantz, the other candidate, I'm sure he's declaring victory. We'll see who forms the next Israeli government. It's going to get complicated, to be sure.

Oren Lieberman, thank you very much. Oren Lieberman joining us from Tel Aviv.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNsitroom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

[19:00:00]