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Attorney General Barr to Hold News Conference about Mueller Report to Accompany Release of Redacted Version; Interview with Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) of the Intelligence Committee on the Mueller Report. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired April 17, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Every day from these pills, both legal and otherwise, which means, Jake, that a little more than five have died since this show began.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Tom Foreman, thank you so much.

Be sure to tune in to CNN tomorrow morning starting at 6:00 Eastern for our special coverage of the Mueller report. Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: preemptive strike. The Justice Department announces that the attorney general, William Barr, will hold a news conference on the Mueller report tomorrow morning and President Trump suggests he may do the same thing, as he launches a pre-emptive strike with a round of radio interviews and Twitter rants, attacking Democrats and the Russia probe.

More Assange charges?

New documents reveal an ongoing criminal investigation in the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Are prosecutors now looking into WikiLeaks' handling of Democratic emails stolen by Russia?

Stonewalling: Democrats are poised to subpoena the full Mueller report and supporting evidence but the Trump administration is already stonewalling document demands in several investigations.

How long can the standoff continue?

And found dead: the woman who was viewed as a threat to Denver-area schools, including Columbine, is found dead. Now investigators are trying to learn if she had accomplices.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Breaking news. We're just hours away from the release of the Mueller report and the Justice Department now says attorney general William Barr will hold a news conference about it in the morning.

President Trump suggests he may follow suit and, in radio interviews, the president says "You'll see a lot of strong things come out tomorrow," his words.

It will be a redacted version of Mueller's report but administration officials are worried the president will explode in fury if it reveals their testimony to Mueller's team. A Republican source warns the president will, quote, "go bonkers."

He's already been hyperventilating via Twitter, calling the Mueller probe a witch hunt, a total fraud, instigated -- and I'm quoting him now -- "by a bunch of dirty cops and Democrats."

While he falsely claims exoneration, Democrats note the report does not draw a conclusion on obstruction and they're poised to subpoena the full report with supporting evidence.

I'll speak with Congressman Andre Carson of the Intelligence Committee. Our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's begin with the breaking news. Our CNN Justice reporter, Laura Jarrett, is joining us from the Justice Department.

Things are moving dramatically right now just ahead of the release of the Mueller report, Laura. First of all, tell our viewers what you're learning.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, while much of the report itself still remains a mystery, we've now learned that the attorney general, Bill Barr, plans to hold a news conference tomorrow morning at 9:30 here at the Justice Department.

He'll be joined on stage with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller and has been overseeing the investigation for much of its nearly two-year-long life.

I'm told by a source familiar with the plans for tomorrow that Barr's expected to provide an overview of the report, sort of explain his thinking and also address some process related questions.

Of course, the big issue is when exactly is the report coming out?

The Justice Department still not saying that at this hour. But Barr clearly attempting to try to take the reins and control the narrative here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: This news conference in the morning, 9:30 am Eastern, in relation to when the report will be released, certainly is key. I assume that reporters, the public, will get a copy of the 400-page redacted Mueller report before he actually goes out and makes a statement and answers reporters' questions.

JARRETT: We just don't know yet, Wolf. The timing is very fluid and the Justice Department is being very tightlipped about it. I can tell you we do know at some point, Congress, reporters, the public will have access to the full report online.

We know that it's going to be redacted, everything from grand jury information to ongoing investigations. We can expect to see those color-coded redactions. Remember what Barr said at his hearing last week, that we'll see more than just the gist. So we should manage our expectations on those redactions.

BLITZER: Stand by for a moment. I want to bring in Evan Perez and Jeffrey Toobin, who are also assessing what's going on right now.

Give us your analysis, Evan. Obviously we want to see the actual 400- page redacted Mueller report before we can start asking serious questions of the attorney general.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, Wolf, first of all, I'm not assuming that we are going to see the report before the attorney general does his press conference. I don't think that's an assumption anybody should make at this point.

Secondly, the announcement of this press conference came from the president in a radio interview this --

[17:05:00]

PEREZ: -- afternoon, which is definitely not the way the Justice Department planned for this to come out.

And that's something that's important for us to underscore because this is an important moment for this attorney general, for this Justice Department. This is an investigation that's been independent. And this is an important moment for the Justice Department and the attorney general to show some distance from the White House.

So it's problematic, at least from the optics, for the president to be making an announcement about something that the attorney general is going to be doing about this investigation that has centered on the president. So it's just not a good look.

And it just really -- again, it helps further some of the accusations that people have been making against the attorney general, that perhaps he's playing a little bit of rear guard for the president. This is not the way this should have gone today. And you've got to think that the attorney general understands that.

BLITZER: Well, is he trying to control the narrative?

Is that what --

(CROSSTALK)

PEREZ: Sure, I think if you're him, this is the one opportunity you have to control the narrative. But I also do think, though, that this is the first time he's going to answer questions from us. So I think it's an important time for that.

There are also big questions he needs to be able to answer, including, for example, did the Justice Department ever come close to subpoenaing the president over the obstruction investigation?

That's something we don't even need to look at the report for. We know from his letter enough information that we can certainly ask some very good questions tomorrow, even if we haven't had a time to go through the report.

I don't think the press conference is going to be a waste. There's going to be a lot of information there from him. I also do think that, given Bill Barr has a tendency to go off script, I think it's going to be something that perhaps he's going to have to live with for some time to come. I think you should pay attention to everything he says. It'll come back to haunt him.

BLITZER: I think he would get some praise, the attorney general, Jeffrey, if they release the report, let's say, at 6:00 am, even 7:00 am. Everybody can have a few hours to read it. Then he comes out, makes a statement and then says, go ahead, your best questions.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: This is political news management 101. Most Americans are going to see William Barr describing what's in the report before they see anyone else describing it.

And William Barr is going to say -- and I think it's safe to say he's going to say this -- I was right three weeks ago or four weeks ago, whatever it was, that the conclusions are as follows and no one will have the opportunity to say otherwise.

Because the report either will not be out or certainly most of us will not -- and then the reporters in the room will not have a chance to have gone through it. So you know, I think the phrase that we've all started to use is controlling the narrative.

This is a political judgment on the part of the White House and the Department of Justice that they are going to tell the American people what the report says before anyone can read the actual report.

BLITZER: And it is a sensitive issue, Laura, that the president is announcing there's going to be a news conference at the Justice Department by the attorney general on this really, really sensitive issue, the 400-page redacted Mueller report, even before the Justice Department makes it official.

JARRETT: It sure it. You know, this is one of the risks, I guess, when you tell the president something. There's a chance he might just tweet it out or might just say it on a local radio station. And we don't know all the background of what exactly transpired here. But clearly he's now saying that he may hold a press conference and

may take questions. We don't know exactly when that will be.

But to underscore Evan's point, this is certainly a time where the Justice Department is trying to hold itself up as an institution. It's obviously part of the executive branch. I think that's important to note.

But at a time like this where the president is clearly implicated in a major portion of the report, meaning the obstruction of justice section of it, I think that there is some delicate balancing going on here.

BLITZER: Because the president also said in one of these radio interviews he did today that, we'll see, in his words, and I'm quoting now, "some strong stuff" come out tomorrow.

Do we know if the Justice Department has briefed the president already or if the president has been allowed to see the nearly 400-page report?

JARRETT: The president and his legal team say they have not seen the report. Whether or not they've been given any tea leaves or any briefing or anything like that, I'm sure we'll find out in the days to come on that. But they say they have not seen the actual report.

If you think about it, it sort of insulates them a little bit to be able to say that. So maybe they've gotten an briefing but having actually not had the physical report in their hand, allows them to have a little plausible deniability.

BLITZER: How do you see it, Evan?

PEREZ: No, I think Laura is right. I think they've been careful to tap dance around that very big question. But I think -- I can bet you that's one of the first questions we'll be asking of the attorney general --

[17:10:00]

PEREZ: -- during his press conference. Because obviously the president knows something. If he was told about the press conference, some information was passed on to the White House and to the president before he went on this radio show to be able to essentially break the news before the Justice Department had a chance to do it.

And, again, it really creates additional problems for the attorney general. This is not a new problem he needed to have. The attorney general created some problems last time when he was in Congress, where he referred to spying on the Trump campaign.

Then the president immediately goes out and not only endorses it but then sends out campaign fundraising, endorsing what the attorney general said. These are not helpful things for the attorney general because, if you want to show some independence that this is an investigation that's been done seriously and with some distance from the White House, then this is not the way to do it.

TOOBIN: Well, Evan's right, if you believe that the attorney general should have his role defined, as it's traditionally been defined by, which is a measure of some independence.

This is a different administration. The president has been complaining since he appointed Jeff Sessions that he doesn't have one of his lawyers in at the Justice Department. Now what we're seeing is it looks like he does.

It looks like he has someone who is the same as the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Commerce, someone who works for him, not for the institution. And that's how Barr has portrayed himself so far in his press conference, in his congressional testimony.

So, yes, that's true in terms of the traditional role of the Justice Department but the Donald Trump Justice Department looks very different.

BLITZER: Rod Rosenstein, Jeffrey, the deputy attorney general outgoing, we assume fairly soon but he is still the deputy attorney general. He was the acting attorney general. He criticized James Comey at the time of the Hillary Clinton conclusion of her investigation for having a news conference and spilling all that information even though she wasn't going to be charged with any criminal wrongdoing.

TOOBIN: Rod Rosenstein has had one of the longest farewells since Cher, I think.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: But he has not -- I mean, I don't know what -- I think it's a little unfair to predict what Barr is going to say. I don't know what he's going to say, if he's going to embarrass himself, what he's going to do. The only thing I think you can assume he's going to say is that he was right before, that his characterization of the report as largely almost entirely exculpatory, was right.

And now you can see for yourself, even though, by the time he speaks, none of us will have seen it or seen it for very long.

BLITZER: Laura, very quickly, does it create, though, an appearance potentially for the attorney general of impropriety?

JARRETT: I don't think of it as much as impropriety as much as what is the motivation and sort of setting the tone for the day. Again, we have to see when exactly the report is released in relation to this press conference.

If we walk in, in the morning, and it's 9:30 and we still don't have a report, then the questions will be a lot less informed because we won't have the benefit of those 400 pages to pore through. So there will be a different tone.

But I think as Evan said, we will still get information out of it. To the James Comey point, I think the situation is quite different. This is the attorney general making a statement, not the FBI director. He's not going to get out there and provide derogatory information about an uncharged process. He's going to talk about his thinking.

He might talk about redactions. He could talk about a whole slew of things that don't have to do with the underlying charges. But I think we should wait and see and wait and see the report. We've made a lot of assumptions about what he's doing in terms of being the president's hand-picked attorney general. We may see a different report tomorrow.

BLITZER: And very quickly, once again, Laura, Robert Mueller, he helped the attorney general, the deputy attorney general decide what should be redacted, what shouldn't be redacted.

Is there any indication at all we're getting that he may be at this news conference tomorrow morning as well?

JARRETT: That would be news. No, I do not have any indication we're going to have a rare Robert Mueller sighting tomorrow, much less take questions. Certainly that would be something. I think he's going to stay under the radar as he has continued to do for the past two years -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Should he stay under the radar, Jeffrey?

TOOBIN: I think it would be a bad look for him to be part of this press conference. He's going to have a chance to speak on his own if he wants. He'll undoubtedly be asked to speak before Congress.

Given the contentious nature, it appears, of the relationship between the Justice Department and the special counsel, it doesn't seem likely he'll be used as a prop tomorrow.

BLITZER: And I speak for all journalists, we're happy when senior officials give us news conferences so we can ask tough questions. Everybody stand by. There's more urgent news we're following. I want to go to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president is hinting, as we just have been reporting, he may actually hold a news conference later in the day tomorrow.

What are you hearing?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it sounds like the communications director in chief over here is getting warmed up at the White House. President Trump told a local --

[17:15:00]

ACOSTA: -- Washington, D.C., radio station this afternoon, as you were just saying that attorney general William Barr will be holding a news conference tomorrow to go over what's being released from the Mueller report, the president also hinted he might hold his own news conference. So fasten your seat belts for that.

The president was also sounding off on the probe during this interview, at one point raising questions about former president Barack Obama's role in this investigation, a early warning sign he's not going to be pleased about what's coming out in this report.

I've talked to people who have spoken within the special counsel's office. One former aide here at the White House says the White House told officials they had talked to investigators, raising the question why the president would be so upset with all of that cooperation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): As the president tried to stay on script at the White House, current and former Trump aides were nervously anticipating the findings from attorney general William Barr's redacted version of the Mueller report.

One former administration official scoffed at the notion that the president could be upset with what comes out in the report, as some Trump aides were told they had to cooperate and that, in some cases, their email addresses were handed over to the special counsel's team.

Democrats are wondering why there's so much anxiety and are ready to review the findings.

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: I want to understand what the Mueller report found on the issue of obstruction of justice. We know that the Mueller report doesn't exonerate the president. The Mueller report refused to make a conclusion. We should see what evidence the Mueller team collected.

ACOSTA (voice-over): A former Justice Department official who's familiar with the investigation says there could be embarrassing details about the president in the report.

But this former official cautioned, the president is impossible to embarrass, despite the fact that he's already welcomed Mueller's findings of no collusion with the Russians during the campaign, the president is still trashing the probe, tweeting, "The witch hunt has been a total fraud on your president and the American people. It was brought to you by dirty cops, crooked Hillary and the DNC."

As he awaits the findings, the president is weighing in on the Democratic field for 2020, tweeting, "I believe it will be crazy Bernie Sanders versus sleepy Joe Biden as the two finalists to run against, maybe the best economy in the history of our country and many other great things. I look forward to facing whoever it may be. May God rest their soul."

Sanders fired back, "Looks like President Trump is scared of our campaign. He should be."

In an interview on Sirius XM, the president relished the idea of running against a self-described socialist.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But our country is doing so well and if we ever went socialistic, if we ever became a socialist country, you could write off this country. This country would go down so fast.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

ACOSTA (voice-over): The Trump administration is also finding new ways to crack down on the border with the proposal to detain migrants seeking asylum instead of releasing them as their cases are heard. Top Republicans say they're willing to accept the tough policy.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): So we do need to address the problem in the here and now. I hear people, let's send billions down and repair the economies of Central America. That's not going to happen or repair those economies anytime soon. We have to address this problem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now as for the Mueller report, the former official who spoke with the special counsel's office that I talked with earlier today, this person told me it may have been better to talk to the grand jury instead of the investigators with the Mueller probe as grand jury proceedings are expected to be redacted in the findings that come out tomorrow.

According to this former official, the lesson learned after talking to Mueller's team is, quote, "Don't cooperate."

And Wolf, getting back to the president possibly talking to reporters tomorrow, it does raise the question why the White House, why the president was in such a celebratory mood when the Barr letter came out, summing up the Mueller findings.

The other question, of course, obviously, is why the president feels the need to try to reshape the news cycle if he has nothing to worry about. It certainly goes to this narrative that we've heard over the last several days, that anxiety levels are going up over here at the White House and, among those officials, those former officials who spoke with the Mueller team.

BLITZER: Going to be a dramatic day tomorrow for sure. Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.

Lets get more on the breaking news. Our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju is joining us from Capitol Hill.

If the Mueller report comes back heavily redacted, how do you expect Democrats to immediately react?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Expect the House Judiciary Committee to issue subpoenas as soon as this week. They're not saying exactly when they'll issue subpoenas but they want to see exactly what is redacted.

There's an expectation here on Capitol Hill that there will be a significant amount of redactions that will prompt a subpoena fight. Democrats will try to issue a subpoena for the full Mueller report. They're also going to try to go to court to demand that grand jury information be released to Capitol Hill.

Also, Wolf, expect subpoenas to be issued to five former White House officials, who cooperated with the Mueller probe, who may have received documents from the White House as they cooperated with the probe's look into potential obstruction of justice.

So on multiple fronts, subpoenas could be could be issued. But resistance from the Justice Department is certainly expected. That could mean court fights that could last for some time and what Capitol Hill ultimately sees --

[17:20:00]

RAJU: -- remains a big question.

BLITZER: Do these congressional committees have the time, the resources, the political will to keep fighting for these documents as they go through court procedures?

It could take quite a while.

RAJU: It could take quite a while. And Democrats are girding for a long fight. According to a senior house Democratic aide, there have been 35 requests for information to the administration that have either been slow-walked or gotten no response at all from the administration. They point to nine Trump administration officials where they've asked to testify who have not asked to testify.

There are some outstanding subpoena requests that they're demanding information. Some of these could end up in court.

The White House says the House Democrats are overreaching in their requests but, nevertheless, this fight could take up much of the next two years, could end up in court and could test exactly how much oversight Congress can give the executive branch.

BLITZER: Clearly the stakes are enormous. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thank you.

Joining us now, Democratic congressman Andre Carson of Indiana. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. Let's get to the breaking news right away. The president says he may hold a news conference on the Mueller report tomorrow. We're already hearing from White House officials who are having some serious second thoughts about having cooperated with the special counsel.

Does that tell you anything about what we should expect from this redacted version of the Mueller report?

REP. ANDRE CARSON (D-IN): In many ways, yes. I think the president wants to get ahead of the media frenzy that will inevitably take place as a result of the full report being released.

I'm concerned about the redactions in the report, what it means, to what extent are we protecting sensitive sources and methods and, hopefully as we go further, how much of it is -- how broad is it, how ambiguous is it?

I'm hoping we don't get muddled with redactions that we can't get to the root of the report. And if the president really believes that no wrongdoing has taken place, he should feel OK.

But I think what Director Mueller has essentially done since the president hasn't been indicted, he's really left the task up to Congress. After we review the legal nuance and comb through this report, he's left the task of indictment. If there's a cause for indictment, he's left it up to Congress.

BLITZER: The attorney general, William Barr, is going to hold a news conference at 9:30 am tomorrow morning here in Washington. We don't know if the full report will have been released by then. We hope it will have been released a few hours earlier so people could go through, read the 400-page document and ask tough, serious questions.

But is he trying -- already there's some speculation the attorney general is trying to control the narrative.

What's your reaction?

CARSON: Of course he is. The attorney general was handpicked by the president, given his history, to essentially protect the president. So both the president and the attorney general are essentially working together in a very real sense to get ahead of the messaging, to get ahead of the narrative, to kind of frame this in a way that will not impact the president going into the 2020 election.

BLITZER: The report is supposedly close to 400 pages. We don't know how many of those pages will be blacked out or redacted.

What specific information will you be looking for as you read through the document?

CARSON: I think things that haven't been established. I'll be looking for things like the extent of the president's associates, even the president himself, in terms of the obstruction of justice, those persons who went before the House Intel Committee, of which I serve.

To what extent did they try to obstruct justice or even lie to the Intelligence Committee? Those are the kinds of things I'll be looking for. Also, looking at things that are unredacted, certain individuals who have acted as sources, critical sources.

But I understand, as being the chairman over the Counter Intelligence Subcommittee on Intelligence that there are serious national security concerns that probably should not be made available to the public, Wolf. So we have to protect those things as well.

But in a very real sense, I want the American people to see to it that we're being good stewards over their taxpayer dollars and their personal interests as this report is released.

BLITZER: You don't want sensitive, classified information that could undermine sources and methods to be released to the public.

But do you want your committee to have access to that information?

CARSON: Without question. I think the committees who deal with that kind of information, the Intel Committee and certainly the Judiciary Committee and Democratic leadership will have that kind of information. But the law of averages, once you have so many human beings involved, that information will inevitably get leaked at some point.

BLITZER: Congressman Andre Carson, thank you for joining us.

[17:25:00]

CARSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, more on the breaking news. The attorney general will hold a news conference tomorrow morning to accompany the release of a redacted version of the Mueller report. President Trump says he may do the same thing. Democrats are poised to subpoena the full version of the report. Lots going on. We'll be right back.

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BLITZER: Our breaking news: as we count down to tomorrow morning's release of the redacted Mueller report, President Trump in a new round of radio interviews is predicting -- and I'm quoting him now -- "You'll see a lot of very strong things come out." Attorney general William Barr will take questions at a news conference at 9:30 am Eastern tomorrow morning.

[17:30:05]

And that brings us to a lot of questions, lots of discussion points for our analysts and our correspondents who are here.

Susan, what do you think? The Attorney General going to make a statement and answer reporters' questions at 9:30 even though we don't know for sure that the actual report will have been released by then.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: It's certainly a little bit of a strange decision to hold that 9:30 press conference. Of course, if it's in advance of the report, why weigh in now when he declined just last week, saying let's wait for the report to come out. If it's shortly after the report comes out, that itself is a little bit of an odd decision. We've been told that this is a 400-page report. It's going to take the time for people to read and digest that information and be able ask substantive conversations.

There is a little bit of a concern that if this conference is essentially timed for the report to be released and then immediately thereafter, therefore not allowing people time to actually read what's in it, that really it's a press conference that's not so much about answering substantive questions but instead about controlling the narrative right out the gate.

BLITZER: The person who made the announcement about the Bill Barr news conference, Abby, is the President of the United States. He said Barr is going to have a news conference. He may hold a news conference, the President himself. It's pretty unusual for the President to be making an announcement like that.

ABBY PHILIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is. And it just reflects that he has some idea of what's coming tomorrow in the sense that he understands the logistics of it. But he's also eager to respond himself and to fire back and to weigh in and shape the narrative. In some ways, what Barr is doing tomorrow is going to be yet another summary of this Mueller investigation. Whether it comes out moments before or after the report is released to the public, it's clearly going to be at a time when people have not had a significant amount of time to digest what's in the report.

So Barr is going to be, in many cases, framing the narrative again. The President wants to take the opportunity to do that yet again when he speaks to reporters. And just in my experience, as someone who covers him, this is not a president who is particularly concerned with the details really ever. And so I don't expect that whatever he says about what's in the report to be really wedded to what is actually in it. It's going to be just, I think, a lot more of the spin that we've been hearing from the last several days, no collusion, no obstruction.

BLITZER: As we know, Bianna, the President likes to break news. And in this particular case, he clearly did. What do you think?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, look, this is a president who thought that he would jump ahead of the Mueller report from the get-go. And initially, when the Barr memo came out, he called himself vindicated and said this had all been a witch hunt, nothing else to see here, folks, move on. That may have very well been the best day of the past few weeks for the President because, subsequently, we now have a 400-page document being released tomorrow.

I don't know what the redactions will look like and how heavily the report will be redacted, but you can already see the President running to his corner saying, not only was I vindicated, but remember, this was all a witch hunt and an illegal investigation as well. You had his Attorney General last week give him a little bit of ammunition, whether that was intentional or not, by suggesting there was spying going on. So once the report comes out, as people start sifting through it, you can see the President not only calling himself vindicated but reminding Americans that this was an illegal investigation, in his opinion, and the Attorney General is looking into that.

BLITZER: And the President also, in one of his radio interviews, Phil, said today that you'll see a whole bunch of very strong things come out tomorrow, which suggest he has a pretty good understanding of what we're going to get. PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERRORISM ANALYST: Yes. Let's look at this at two levels. When the President took a victory lap, appropriately, it was a victory lap about legalities. There's not going to be charges coming out on cooperation, conspiracy with the Russians during the cooperation. What you're going to see tomorrow, regardless of the debate about redactions, I think, is ugliness.

The second round of what we're going to see is not whether something illegal happened. It's whether something really inappropriate happened during the campaign. I'd bet a paycheck, we'll see tomorrow, that stuff happens that singes your eyebrows. So what the President is trying to do is get out in front of not whether something illegal happened but the conversation tomorrow afternoon about whether something inappropriate happened. And I guarantee, you the report is going to tell you it did.

BLITZER: Because in that four-page summary, the principal conclusions that the Attorney General released three or four weeks ago, he specifically stated there are not going to be anymore criminal charges as far as Mueller is concerned.

HENNESSEY: Sure, so that question has been answered. But we always knew that that was going to be the answer to the question with respect to the President. Clearly, Mueller believes that there is significant evidence on either side of the obstruction question. Certainly, members of Congress are going to weigh in with their own assessment of potential legality or illegality.

But in that document, consider the body of reporting that the White House has been actively denying that this report is either going to confirm or deny sort of in a conclusive way. Did Donald Trump tell Jim Comey to see his way to letting Michael Flynn go?

[17:35:00]

Did he direct Don McGahn to pressure the Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, to unrecuse in the Russia investigation?

Two years into this, there are still really basic questions that, as far as the White House is concerned, have not yet been answered.

PHILIP: And, Wolf, that's a great point about just what we already know based on the reporting that's been publicly revealed over the last two years just from the journalism around this White House. The Mueller report could very well confirm a lot of those things that this White House has been denying for months and years. And so in some cases, it's damaging to them in that respect because it could present real evidence based on interviews from people who work in the White House or who worked for President Trump that confirm potentially events that have been denied for many, many months now.

BLITZER: Yes, Bianna, go ahead.

GOLODRYGA: And in an era where we have so many different media outlets, some a bit more friendly to the President and administration, you see him already getting ahead of it by giving a radio interview to one of those outlets as well. Today, you could see numerous interpretations or numerous different focuses on specific aspects of this Mueller report and some wanting to focus more on those that may vindicate or absolve the President in his opinion versus others that may be more problematic.

BLITZER: Phil, I want to put on the screen a bunch of current and former Trump officials who cooperated, who answered questions posed by Robert Mueller and his team. You can see all those individuals. We're now told that some are regretting that kind cooperation. They're fearful what might come out in that report tomorrow and what they said about the President could wind up, for example, angering the President.

MUDD: As they should be. I mean, we went into this with people across the country saying, everything should be revealed to the American people. And somebody goes in front of the Special Counsel and says, let me tell you everything I know about inappropriate presidential behavior, because I presume you're not going to dime me out to the American public and to Wolf Blitzer tomorrow night. And it turns out that if they presume they weren't going to be exposed to the American people, that might be incorrect. If I were the White House officials who might potentially be named and shamed tomorrow, I would be irate. Do we go into a conversation with investigators saying we're going to be exposed or do we think this is a private process? I guess it's going to be public.

PHILIP: Well, to put this into context, this is a president who makes a lot of people who work for him sign NDAs, non-disclosure agreements. A lot of these people are going to have things that they said privately that are probably truthful being revealed publicly. Many of these people who don't work in the White House anymore are in the business where closeness and proximity to the President is really the coin of the realm.

And so they're risking not just their relationship with President Trump on an interpersonal basis, but in many cases, their whole livelihoods are sort of on the line here where a lot of people who rely on just simply being close to the President and being able to say that they are loyal to him will have their comments about him, some of which might be unflattering, just out there in the public. It's damaging.

BLITZER: What do you think, Susan?

HENNESSEY: I mean, I don't have any particular sympathy for this group of people, especially people who work for the United States of America and not Donald Trump. Whenever they meet with investigators, they have a legal obligation to tell the truth. If the underlying facts of what happened, of what they saw, of what the President did and what they witnessed are unflattering or damaging to the President, then, ultimately, the responsibility rests with the President and rests with the people who engage in this behavior.

And, ultimately, the American people need to understand what happened in order to have a basic accountability into what is happening in the White House and what is happening on our behalf. BLITZER: You know -- go ahead, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Well, you could very well see a scenario, and I believe, in some cases, this was how things played out, that the President, instead of him going before Mueller, advised and would have preferred that others in his inner circle go for no other reason than to buy time for the President and to sort of placate the investigation as well, which raises the question of whether this administration and this President in particular is a savvy tactician and maybe just not a very good strategist in the long-term because, ultimately, we're in a scenario where you have a lot of people who are concerned about what they told and maybe at the President's own behest to avoid him having to go testify before Robert Mueller, and now having to be concerned about whether or not they'll be outed.

BLITZER: Phil, The New York Times had just posted a story about all of this, and based on the headline being, White House and Justice Department officials discuss Mueller report before release. Let me read a couple sentences to you.

Robert Mueller, the search findings, will be public on Thursday. But some of them will not be news to President Trump. Justice Department officials have had numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the Special Counsel's conclusions in the recent days. According to people with knowledge of the discussions, the talks have aided the President's legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report and strategize for the coming pubic war over its findings.

But listen to this next sentence. A sense of paranoia is taking hold among some of the President's aides, some of whom fear Mr. Trump's backlash more than the findings themselves.

[17:39:56]

The people said the report might make clear which of Mr. Trump's current and former advisers spoke to the Special Counsel, how much they said and how much damage they did to Mr. Trump providing a kind of road map for Presidential retaliation.

MUDD: I mean, that seems so self-evident. The President, as we knew when this report came -- when the Barr letter came out, won. He won on the issue of conspiracy. So then why the heck do you worry about the details coming out? The president has beaten every competitor since the republican campaign. The only reason you would worry about the details coming out is in a national security perspective, this is an Access Hollywood moment. That is, the details that come out are going to be so cringe worthy, that the President and his team already know what the details are is going to have to say, man, I've got to defend myself, because despite the fact that the top line exonerates me on the issue of conspiracy, the details are nasty.

BLITZER: And what about the news here that White House lawyers have had extensive conversations with Justice Department officials about this report?

HENNESSEY: I think that itself is the most significant revelation, right? The Barr -- I think it's also important to know whether or not those conversations happened before or after Bill Barr wrote that initial summary letter. Look, you know, this is going to be an immense test for the Department of Justice tomorrow as an institution and sort of in preserving the public faith in that institution.

And there's a big question about whether or not Bill Barr's conduct up to this point entitles him to the benefit of the doubt and the benefit of the doubt that he's going to need in defending those redactions. Engaging in behavior, like briefing the White House on the contents of this report, despite Congress having specifically asked them not to do it, not being forthcoming and transparent about that fact but waiting for it to be reported in the news.

BLITZER: Because, Abby, The New York Times report adds, the discussions between Justice Department officials and White House lawyers have also added to questions about the propriety of the decisions by the Attorney General, William Barr, since he received the Special Counsel's findings late last month.

PHILIP: Yes. This is a major question that has been hanging over Bill Barr for days now. Last week when he was testifying on the Hill, he refused to answer a question about whether or not he was going to provide the White House with the findings ahead of time. Now, we know, according to The New York Times, that, apparently, he did or people are the Justice Department did, giving the White House a potentially significant heads up to prepare for this, to potentially frame and spin what's in the report before Congress gets to see it.

And it feeds into the questions that democrats have had on the Hill, the concerns they've had, that Barr is basically blocking and tackling for President Trump. They've been concerned from the get-go that as a political appointee who essentially got the job by having skepticism about the point of the Mueller probe, particularly as it goes to obstruction, that Barr is basically in this job to help protect President Trump. That's what the democrats are saying.

I think this report from The New York Times is going to suggest that maybe they are not totally off base here. I think it's going to make it very difficult for him going forward, even when we get into some of these legal fights. It speaks to what his objectives are in trying to withhold information if (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: Let me get Bianna weigh in on this as well. Go ahead, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Well, it makes it all the more interesting, not only what we'll hear from Barr tomorrow at 9:30 but Rod Rosenstein, who's expected to be with him as well. Remember, he is the one who appointed Bob Mueller to this investigation. And he may have a say in at least trying to give some legitimacy or some cover for Bill Barr.

Bill Barr alluded to him in that four-page memo as well that he also concluded that the President could not be charged with obstruction, or at least there was not enough evidence of obstruction in the 400-page Mueller report. He does have a mixed reputation as far as the history involved in this presidential -- in this president, this administration with regards to the firing of Jim Comey and the letter he wrote justifying the firing, but obviously leading up to bringing Mueller on the team.

He was not expected to be in this job at this point, but he still is there. And I'm curious to hear what he has to say tomorrow if he'll be answering any questions himself.

BLITZER: And there's other news that we're getting now, let me let Susan first weigh in on this, that apparently the public release of the redacted version, that will go forward tomorrow. But they will make basically an unredacted version available to some select committees, select members of Congress. This is in a filing, court filing in the Roger Stone case. Let me read a sentence from the filing. This is the Justice Department filing.

Once the redacted version of the report has been released to the public, the Justice Department plans to make available for review by a limited number of members of Congress and their staff a copy of the Special Counsel's report without certain redactions, including removing the redaction of information related to the charges set forth in the indictment in this case. That would be the Roger Stone case. This version of the report will not be made available to the media or in public settings consistent with the court's February 15 order.

HENNESSEY: Right. So this is referring to the fact that certain members of Congress are going to be able to see the classified information contained in the report.

[17:45:01]

We don't know how much of that information was going to be included, but that's why the other two categories of possible redactions have always been the most significant.

The executive branch, the Justice Department and the White House is not going to be able to assert classified information against Congress as a way to not allow Congress to see that information because they have separate entitlements. That's why it's going to be sort of most important to understand the grand jury material that may have been redacted and also that third prudential category of information related to essentially, you know, innocent third parties. That's the area in which the Justice Department is really asserting without having a court even come in to look. This is the information we're going to keep secret because we feel like it.

And that's where, really, especially to the extent there's reason to be suspicious of the Justice Department, suspicious that Bill Barr's conduct, certainly following this New York Times report, really, really serious questions are going to arise.

BLITZER: And, historically, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, you used to work in the Intelligence Committee, Phil. The executive branch of the U.S. government often over the years has shared the most sensitive national security classified information with what they call the gang of eight, the leaders of the intelligence committees in the House and Senate and the leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives, democrats and republicans. They've shared some of the most potentially explosive information. Is that right?

MUDD: Sure. And I was there when we shared information, for example, on interrogation techniques, which back in 2003 when I briefed the Congress, was extremely sensitive. But don't look at me. Look at what Director Mueller, now Special Counsel Mueller and the team put out in terms of the indictments of Russian officials. When I first read those, that's not just indictments, that was intelligence information.

I mean, the information in those about the activities of Russian- linked people in terms of accessing American voter systems, American -- not voter systems, pardon me -- social media was incredible intelligence. To tell somebody in America today that we can't reveal sensitive information now after all that information about Russia came out, I think we're going to see a lot tomorrow, more than we need to know maybe.

HENNESSEY: And keep in mind, we knew from the outset there were two major prongs to this investigation. One was that criminal investigation. The other was the counterintelligence piece. And that's the piece that they're going to have to brief to that gang of eight.

BLITZER: They certainly will. Everybody stand by. There's more on the breaking news, and there's a lot of dramatic developments unfolding right now. President Trump dropping hints about the Mueller report, revealing the Attorney General will hold a news conference 9:30 A.M. Eastern tomorrow morning.

Also, more saber rattling coming in from Kim Jong-un as satellite pictures reveal rail cars near a key nuclear site. What is the North Korean dictator planning?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:50:00]

BLITZER: Since his fails summit with President Trump at Hanoi, North Korea's Kim Jong-un has been aiming some very tough talk at the United States. But now, he's once again showing off his military and there's ominous activity near a nuclear facility.

Brian Todd is here in the situation room. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight, the clearest sign that despite his efforts at talks with the U.S., Kim Jong-un may be ready to flex his military muscle meeting with his Air Force, as we are learning new information tonight on the presence of rail cars at a key nuclear facility in North Korea.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Kim Jong-un back on camera and in command. In newly released photos, the 35-year-old dictator is seen beaming as he watches his fighter pilots prepare for war. North Korea's so-called supreme commander loves to flex his military muscle on camera, something he often does when backed into a corner. According to his news agency in this case, he ordered his pilots to perform, quote, complicated air combat actions in case they are needed against the U.S.

Tonight, there's word the dictator could be preparing other weapons against America in case his talks with President Trump, which are already strained, fully break down. New satellite images analyzed by the group beyond parallel show the presence of what the group calls specialized train rail cars near an enrichment facility at North Korea's Yongbyon nuclear complex.

DAVID ABRIGHT, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: This is likely a plan to separate tritium that's used in thermonuclear weapons. It would have been produced in a reactor at Yongbyon and they would have shipped it possibly by rail car to this facility.

TODD: Beyond parallel says, it can't rule out the possibility that these cars are being used to move radioactive material, although it cannot confirm that's being done.

CNN reached out to the White House, the State Department and the CIA, none of whom are commenting on these new pictures. Analysts believe that while he is doing this diplomatic dance with President Trump, Kim is still producing nuclear bombs and missiles in secret.

ABRIGHT: The biggest fear is that he's refining his ability to put a thermonuclear weapon on an ICBM and building many of those. Many in that sense is five to ten and would be able to really target the United States.

TODD: As for these new pictures, analysts say it's possible the North Koreans want U.S. officials to see what they're doing and want to send a signal.

DAVID MAXWELL, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: To raise tensions or conduct provocations to get political or economic concessions, they want political concessions. They want the United States to agree to a summit but most importantly, they want the United States to lift sanctions.

TODD: And tonight, Kim seems to be preparing to use another kind of leverage against President Trump. A senior Russian official tells CNN preparations are being made for a possible meeting between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Reports say they could meet as early as next week in Russia's Far East. Putin analysts say would love to drive a wedge between Kim and Trump and Kim could use Putin to his own advantage.

MAXWELL: Kim wants to see Putin to be able to use him to support his blackmail diplomacy. An alliance where close relationship with Putin will put pressure on the United States.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: An analyst warned there are other ways that Vladimir Putin could help out Kim Jong-un. They say the Russians could give some important weapons to the North Korean leader, aircraft, maybe even submarines. And they say Russia could help North Korea perfect its capabilities in cyber warfare, capabilities that have already been very dangerous for the United States. Wolf?

BLITZER: Certainly. All right, Brian, thank you very much.

Coming up, breaking news, the Attorney General will hold a news conference tomorrow morning to accompany the release of a redacted version of the Mueller report. President Trump says he may do the same. Has the Justice Department been tipping off the White House about the report?

[17:55:02]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news, ready to talk. Attorney General William Barr doesn't plan to let the Mueller report speak for itself. He'll hold a news conference tomorrow morning as his redacted version of the Special Counsel's findings is released.

Trump's spin. Just hours before the big Mueller report reveal, the President is speaking out tonight in a new round of interviews.

[18:00:02]

Will he make a formal statement or even take questions once the report is public?

White House consulted.