Return to Transcripts main page
THE SITUATION ROOM
FBI: Investigators Now Focused on Possible Accomplices After Woman Wanted for Columbine Threat Found Dead; Interview With Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL). Aired 6-7p ET
Aired April 17, 2019 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Will he make a formal statement or even take questions once the report is public?
White House consultant. There's a new report out tonight that Justice Department officials have had numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the special counsel's conclusions in recent days. How much did they reveal to the president's team?
And two reports. The Justice Department reveals that some members of Congress will get to see a less redacted version of the Mueller report than the one that's made public. Will that satisfy Democrats demanding to see everything?
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: We're following a lot of breaking news this hour on the Trump administration's roll out of the redacted Mueller report just hours from now.
The Justice Department confirming that Attorney General William Barr will hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. Tomorrow morning to discuss the report and will take questions. Tonight, President Trump says he may hold his own news conference after Barr speaks.
The Justice Department also revealing that a second less-redacted version of the report will be provided to some members of Congress. This as "The New York Times" reports that Justice Department officials have spoken to White House lawyers about the special counsel's conclusions in recent days.
I will get reaction from Congressman Mike Quigley. He's a Democrat. He serves on the Intelligence Committee. And our correspondents of analysts are also standing by.
First, let's go to CNN Justice reporter Laura Jarrett and our senior White House correspondent, Pamela Brown.
Laura, tell us more about this news conference the attorney general is planning to hold tomorrow morning. LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, much is at
stake for William Barr, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who's been overseeing the investigation, and the institution of the Justice Department.
We now know that they will face cameras and take questions at 9:30 tomorrow morning. And I'm told the Barr will make a statement. And he's going to really explain his thinking. He's going to provide an overview of the report and address potential process-related questions.
Now, of course, the big question on everybody's mind is, when will we see that report? The Justice Department still being tight-lipped at this hour about when exactly it will go to Congress, when it will go to the republic.
All of those key details, we are still pressing for right now. But we know that Barr will take questions and he will be there tomorrow morning at 9:30 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We're also now learning, Laura, that there will be two versions of this redacted Mueller report, the one that will eventually go to a limited number of members of Congress with fewer redactions.
Tell us about that.
JARRETT: That's right. This came in a court filing just minutes ago, actually, in the case of Roger Stone, that former confidant of the president.
And in that filing, Justice Department lawyers sort of provided a little bit of a road map of what we will see in the coming days, explaining that a report with fewer redactions will go to select members of Congress. Now, we can assume that may mean the Gang of Eight, but they did not specify. So we're trying to confirm that.
But it really puts Congress in an interesting position. As we know, they have been pressing for days to see the full report. This only says that they will see it with fewer redactions, because, as the attorney general has explained, it's being redacted for grand jury information, as well as ongoing information.
And that would pertain, of course, to the case of Roger Stone. So they're saying they will get a report with fewer redactions on ongoing investigations.
Pamela, you think the president and the attorney general, they're trying to control the narrative once we get to see this redacted version of the report by having these news conferences?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly seems as though the president is at the very least trying to do so. And he's been doing it for days leading up to tomorrow, with his tweets saying, no collusion, no obstruction. Of course, there is the question about the attorney general. As we know, members of Mueller's team felt that he wasn't fully forthcoming in that initial four-page letter to Congress because he shaped the perception to the public, without including some of the more damning information about the president regarding obstruction.
Now, initially, we learned about this from the president himself. He said in a radio interview that Bill Barr will be holding this press conference. So, of course, it did raise the question, are they trying to control the narrative?
The Justice Department later told Laura Jarrett, my colleague, that this was Bill Barr's decision alone to hold this conference. But, of course, it's at 9:30 in the morning, and we still don't know if this is going to be before or after the report's release.
So, presumably, there's not going to be a lot of time if it's released before to fully digest the 400 pages with redactions before the press conference.
BLITZER: Stand by for a moment.
I want to bring in Mark Mazzetti of "The New York Times." He's a CNN national security analyst.
Mark, you have got some major new reporting just posted in "The New York Times" moments ago that the White House has been in direct touch with Justice Department officials about the Mueller report. Tell us about your latest information.
MARK MAZZETTI, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, we're reporting that there have been numerous conversations in the last couple weeks between Justice Department officials and some lawyers at the White House.
These would be members of the White House Counsel's Office, not the president's personal lawyers. It is some discussions about some of this content of the Mueller report and some of the conclusions that Mueller's team came upon.
Now, this has led the White House team to be able to develop a little bit more of a refined strategy for this rebuttal that they're planning to put out, we assume not long after the Mueller report comes out.
BLITZER: And you're also reporting that there's a sense of paranoia among some White House officials. Tell us about that.
As this becomes closer to release, there is a concern, a paranoia about -- about possible retaliation by the president. If there is a kind of road map in the report about who said what, how damaging it was, who knows what the president might do? And so that has created this concern. It's been there before, but I
think the closer it comes to release, and perhaps the more the White House itself learns what's in the report, that has fueled this paranoia.
And I just want to go back for a second as well to sort of add that this issue with the Justice Department talking to the White House is of a piece with some of the kind of more controversial actions that Attorney General Barr has made in recent weeks and statements he's made, going back to the four-page letter, also adding to that the statement that he made last week during the congressional testimony sort of saying that there had been spying on the Trump campaign in 2016.
So he's under a lot of scrutiny as well.
BLITZER: Mark, what do you make of the fact that it was President Trump just a little while ago who announced that the attorney general will be having a news conference tomorrow morning, instead of the Justice Department would normally make an announcement like that?
MAZZETTI: It's hard to know at this point how much to make of it. Certainly, it suggests that there was a degree of coordination going on, which isn't entirely abnormal.
And this is obviously an unusual presidency. But it does show that there is at least an effort to have a coordinated -- some degree of a coordinated message tomorrow when the report comes out.
BLITZER: What do you think about that, Laura?
JARRETT: You know, Wolf, it strikes me it's sort of unorthodox, but it's not surprising, necessarily, that they're having conversations about the rollout.
I think we need to learn more, and I would not be surprised if the attorney general addresses this at the top of his remarks. And I think a lot of people were sort of curious about why he didn't just address it head on at his testimony last week.
He had said previously the White House was not going to do a privilege review of this report. Fine, fair enough. But when he was asked about whether the White House had been briefed on the report, he deferred on that. And he said he didn't want to get into it.
So part of what leads to all of this speculation and conflagration about White House and DOJ communications is the secrecy. And if everyone would just be up front with what's happening, because there's nothing wrong with it, perhaps there wouldn't lead to all of this enormous sort of combustion of curiosity all the time about all of their conversations.
And, Pamela, you cover the White House for us. What's your analysis?
I mean, as soon as I heard Bill Barr at the hearing last week, he was being very cagey on this issue, said he wasn't going to talk about discussions, even though in that letter previously he said that he wouldn't consult with the White House on executive privilege.
I went straight to White House sources. Some didn't know. Others were being cagey. And it did appear that there were -- was some back and forth, which, again, as you said, Laura, this whole secrecy and not being forthcoming and transparent leads to you -- to this perception that there's something going on behind the scenes that may not be buttoned up or could be nefarious, even though the White House and DOJ, there's nothing precluding them from talking.
But it is more of a political issue. And you would think that they would have gotten out front of this and saying, hey, this is what we're doing. There's nothing to hide here, because the Democrats have said all along they don't want the White House to have any part of this process, because the concern would be that the White House would be trying to shield information potentially on an investigation that has to do with the president.
And now we're learning from Mark's reporting in "The New York Times" that there has been this back and forth, several conversations over a couple of weeks. And it just raises the question, why are we learning about this from "The New York Times" and not from the officials, not from Bill Barr or anyone from the White House?
BLITZER: And it's interesting, Pamela, because the former FBI Director James Comey, he was criticized for having the full-scale news conference as he was announcing no criminal charges were going to be launched against Hillary Clinton.
Do Barr and Rosenstein, by having a news conference tomorrow, potentially risk that kind of criticism?
BROWN: They risk it.
Certainly, they're going to have to tread carefully tomorrow. Remember, the letter that Rod Rosenstein wrote that memo that was used in justifying firing James Comey mentioned the fact that he held this press conference about Hillary Clinton, which violated DOJ protocol.
You don't hold press conferences on declinations, when you decide not to prosecute someone. As Laura pointed out, though, there are many other things that they can talk about tomorrow, the process, how they decided to redact what, his thinking, addressing this back and forth with the White House, but certainly a lot is at stake.
And he is going to have to be very careful.
BLITZER: Everybody, stick around, because we're following all the breaking news. I want to go to Capitol Hill right now, where some members of Congress
will be able to review a second version of the Mueller report with fewer redactions than the version that will be released publicly tomorrow morning.
Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is working this part of the story for us.
Manu, the Justice Department revealed this second version is coming. What more can you tell us about that? And how is this likely to play with Democrats?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
In that court filing, it says a limited number of members of Congress could review the less redacted version of the report after the redacted version becomes public. But it's not clear exactly who will be able to see that on Capitol Hill, if it will only be limited to the so-called Gang of Eight, the people who are in charge of the Intelligence Committees, the leadership, or if it will be extended to more than that, perhaps the Judiciary Committee chairman and ranking members in the House and the Senate.
But, nevertheless, Democrats have demanded the full Mueller report, not a less redacted Mueller report. They have demanded the underlying information. They have demanded the grand jury transcripts as well. And they have threatened to subpoena the Justice Department for all of that, and also suggested they would be willing to go to court to fight for all this information.
So, Wolf, the revelation today that a less redacted Mueller report could be available to some members of Congress unlikely to satisfy Democrats who are vowing to fight for every word of this report. The question is, will they get it, Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Manu, I want you to stand by as well, because we're getting some breaking news on a new test of North Korea's weapons program.
This potentially is very significant.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is working the story for us.
Barbara, what exactly are you learning?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, at this hour, the Pentagon is looking into these reports from North Korean state news service.
Kim Jong-un is reported by the North Koreans to have observed today what they are calling a new tactical guided weapons firing test. Two very key words in this statement, tactical and guided. Tactical generally refers to short-range weapons, something that would not be a threat to Japan, South Korea or the United States. But precision, guided, they call it, that means it would be some kind
of weapon that is guided in a precise fashion to its target. The North Koreans are not saying very much about what kind of weapon. And, of course, all of this still has to be verified by the West that they fired anything at all, indeed.
Kim Jong-un also saying that there were powerful warheads involved. We often see warhead-type devices on the front end of short-range artillery rockets. That's what goes to a target. So it appears that the North Koreans are saying that they launched some kind of new tactical -- that is, short-range weapon, not a threat to the United States. That's what the early read on this, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, I want to bring in -- hold on for a moment, Barbara -- our national security reporter, Kylie Atwood, who is also working the story for us.
What are you hearing potentially, Kylie, about Kim Jong-un's motivations?
KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, the question here has been is, Kim Jong-un going to test a nuclear weapon or going to carry out a missile test? And this is evidence that he's moving at least in that direction.
In what state media is saying out of North Korea today, he's inspected and directed a new tactical guided weapons test. This may not be the most provocative thing that he could have done at this moment in time, but it sure is provocative.
And it will require a response from the White House, who has time and time again, despite the slowdown in correspondence between the U.S. and North Korea after the failed summit in Hanoi, in which neither party walked home with any wins, they have said the North Korea is no longer testing its nuclear weapons or its missile program.
And this would be evidence that Kim Jong-un is pushing in that direction. And so that line will no longer stand just as steady as it once did.
BLITZER: In the aftermath of the failed summit in Hanoi, Kylie, is the North Korean leader deliberately right now beginning the process of provoking President Trump?
ATWOOD: That's sure what it looks like, Wolf.
And, as Barbara was saying earlier, we are yet to hear what the U.S. intelligence has said about this and how they are actually looking at this launch and what specifically it was, because that will matter. And that will also guide the U.S. response to this.
There's also options that North Korea had in launching satellites that are not directly tied to its nuclear program, but have mechanics that are tied to its nuclear program. That also would have been something that administration officials told me would have solicited lesser response from the White House than a nuclear test or than a missile test.
But I also think it's important to point out, Wolf, that Steve Biegun, which is -- he's a special representative for North Korea from the State Department. He's in Russia right now. And it is expected that Kim Jong-un will be heading to meet with Putin at some point over the next two weeks. That's what sources told me just today from Russia.
They were meeting with Steve Biegun. And Biegun was still upbeat and optimistic about getting back to the table with the North Koreans. We will have to see how this impacts his posture.
BLITZER: Yes, there's a lot going on.
Let me go back to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
You're getting more information, Barbara. What else are you learning?
STARR: We are indeed, Wolf.
Our own Ryan Browne has just learned that both the U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command -- both those elements of the U.S. military monitor satellites, intelligence-gathering satellites, 24/7. And both are saying that there was no indication of a ballistic missile test.
That's important. It means that U.S. intelligence satellites did not see the infrared or the heat signature of a ballistic missile lifting off a launch pad, so, again, nothing that would threaten the United States, South Korea or Japan.
But it's still extremely significant, because what it does mean now, Kim Jong-un, who is no slouch in crafting his strategy against the United States, has put President Trump in a bit of a box here now.
The president, of course, for months has been defining the initial success against North Korea, that they have not tested any nuclear weapons, they have launched nothing. Well, now, apparently, they have. They have kept it below the threshold of a provocation on the level of threatening the U.S. or other countries in the region.
So they keep it below that level of a provocation. Presumably, this is short-range, guided. It may or may not be something that's new. But that's not really what significant here. It is the statement that Kim Jong-un has made tonight, tomorrow in North Korea, that he is firing something, he's capable of firing it, he's not afraid of Donald Trump.
And now that ball literally is in the president's court. He has to make a political decision how he's going to play this, what he is going to say. The U.S. feels very strongly -- we have heard this from senior leaders behind the scenes -- that Kim Jong-un does not want a big provocation, if you will.
His aim is still to get sanctions relief. So he's not going to do anything. Nobody expects him to do anything at this point to overstep that. But, by firing this weapon off, keeping it relatively low- level, according to the initial reports, not a big provocation, he still tonight has put the president in the box of having to say something about it, and having to, shall we say, reconfigure U.S. strategy, how they're going to deal with the North Koreans on this very key point as they go forward -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, let me go back to Kylie.
Because, Kylie, clearly, even if it's not a ballistic missile, an intermediate-range or a long-range, it's not a nuclear test -- and that's important, that's good -- but it is an opening shot, a new tactical guided weapon that potentially could represent a threat if it's used along the border with South Korea, the demilitarized zone.
There's still, what, close to 30,000 U.S. troops there.
ATWOOD: That's right.
And the reports coming out of North Korea are calling this a historic event which is bolstering North Korea's combat capabilities. That is also a line that can play directly into Kim Jong-un and how he's viewed domestically.
As we were talking about, you know, walking away from the Hanoi summit with President Trump, Kim Jong-un didn't have any deliverables at home. So this is one way for him to cater to his base, in the same way that President Trump has been trying to cast the diplomacy between the U.S. and North Korea as a win, even when there isn't any tangible movement on denuclearization by North Korea as a result of those conversations that have been going on.
So both sides here are looking at how they can domestically play this, but they will have to make a decision about how they play it on the world stage as well.
BLITZER: We will see what the reaction is from the president.
Kylie and Barbara, I know you're both working sources. We will get back to you as more information comes in. Thank you very much.
Right now, I want to go to our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.
Jim, there's a lot of breaking news unfolding.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right.
BLITZER: But, first, let me ask you about this weapons test in North Korea. So far, is the White House saying anything at all about that?
ACOSTA: Wolf, the only thing they will say right now -- I talked to a White House official who said they have seen this report, but that they're not going to have any other comment about it at this time. But it does go back to this issue as to how the president has been
boasting in recent weeks that he's gotten Kim Jong-un under control, that he's gotten the North Koreans to behave themselves. This obviously flies in the face of that.
And this is something that the president's going to have to deal with when they try to determine whether or not to have another summit with the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un.
But getting back to the other provocation over here at the White House, and that is the imminent release of the Mueller report, the redacted version of the Mueller report, President Trump told a Washington, D.C., radio station this afternoon that Attorney General William Barr, as you have been reporting, will be holding a news conference tomorrow to go over what's being released from the Mueller report.
The president also teased that he might hold his own news conference. Wolf, I talked to an administration official just in the last half- hour who said, you can basically take that from the president to mean he is going to be talking to reporters tomorrow.
And so if you take what's already provoking him right now with the Mueller report, and add in this provocation from Kim Jong-un, we have the makings for a pretty lively discussion with reporters over here at the White House, as the president often has.
But one thing we should point out, Wolf, when it comes to the Mueller report, the president was sounding off on this probe during this interview with the local Washington, D.C., radio station. At one point, he was raising questions about former President Barack Obama's role in the investigation, a possible early warning that he's not going to be pleased about what's coming out.
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 e-mail addresses were handed over to the special counsel's team.
Democrats are wondering why there is so much anxiety and are ready to review the findings.
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): 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: 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."
The president sounded off in an interview with a Washington, D.C., talk radio station.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This should never happen to a president or to this country again, what took place. And you will see a lot of very strong things come out tomorrow. Attorney General Barr is going to be giving a press conference. Maybe I will do one after that. We will see.
But he's been a fantastic attorney general. He's grabbed it by the horn.
QUESTION: Is there any doubt in your mind that President Obama at least had knowledge of everything that was going on?
TRUMP: We're talking about pervasive, horrible things that were happening. And it would certainly be hard to believe that he didn't know what was going on. But we're going to leave that for another day.
ACOSTA: 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 vs. 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 SiriusXM, the president relished the idea of running against a self-described socialist.
TRUMP: 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.
ACOSTA: The Trump administration is also finding new ways to crack down on the border with a 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.
ACOSTA: Now, as for the Mueller report, the former administration official who spoke with me earlier today and also spoke with the special counsel's office told me it may have been better to talk to the grand jury, instead of the investigators with the probe in the long run, as the grand jury proceedings are expected to be redacted.
And these findings that we're expecting to see tomorrow, according to this former official, the lesson learned after talking to Mueller's team is do not cooperate.
And, Wolf, getting back to what the president said in that interview with the talk radio station here in Washington WMAL earlier today, the president said that you're going to see some strong things or some strong stuff coming out in this Mueller report.
It's not exactly clear what the president is talking about there. But I did talk with an administration official about that who also picked up on that president -- on that comment from the president. And this official said that is an indication that perhaps, yes, there have been conversations going on between the Justice Department and the White House as to what's going to be in the Mueller report.
But, Wolf, I will tell you reporters here at the White House have spent the last couple of weeks asking these officials every day, have there been any conversations going on between the Justice Department and the White House about the Mueller report?
And it's been curious, Wolf, because what they have been saying over the last week to two weeks about all of that is, well, we can't tell you the answer to that. Obviously, they know that there's a huge sensitivity, especially up there on Capitol Hill among Democrats, that there might be any kind of coordination between the Justice Department and the White House over what is released ultimately by this Mueller report through the attorney general tomorrow, Wolf.
BLITZER: And "The New York Times," as we have been reporting, noting there have been, in the words of "The New York Times," numerous conversations in the past few weeks...
ACOSTA: It does sound that way.
BLITZER: ... between Justice Department officials and White House lawyers on the Mueller report.
ACOSTA: That's right.
BLITZER: Jim Acosta, thank you very much.
Joining us now, Congressman Mike Quigley. He's a Democrat. He serves on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
There's more breaking news coming in. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, just tweeted that Congress won't receive the report until 11:00 or 12:00 tomorrow afternoon.
Let me read the tweet. He said: "I'm deeply troubled by reports that the White House is being briefed on the Mueller report ahead of its release. Now -- now the Department of Justice is informing us that we will not receive the report until around 11:00 or 12:00, tomorrow afternoon, AFTER" -- all in caps -- "AFTER Barr's press conference. This is wrong."
What's your reaction?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): Well, I think the attorney general's doing his job, not the job as attorney general, but the job as special counsel to the president, to protect the president politically, to protect the president legally, to be his press adviser, to shape the message.
That's what he did with this four-page memo. It's what he's doing tomorrow. I'm not a journalist, but I have a pretty good idea it's hard to ask the right questions when you haven't even seen the report.
BLITZER: He also tweeted, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, a man you know well, he also tweeted this: "Attorney General Barr wrote to me on April 1: 'I do not believe it would be in the public's interest for me to attempt to summarize the full report.'"
Nadler says: "I agree. So why is the attorney general holding a press conference tomorrow morning to go over the Mueller report?"
I mean, it's pretty -- pretty unusual, once again, to have a news conference on the Mueller report before the reporters in the room could even -- could have even read the Mueller report and know what to ask.
QUIGLEY: It's part of a pattern of behavior.
The White House has been able to co-opt the Republicans on the Intel Committee to help hand in glove obstruct this investigation and finally tank it, and to not respond to the Russians attacking our democratic process, but to attack the Justice Department and the intelligence community.
So it's a disturbing pattern. And what it leads to is something I have said before. In the final analysis, we can insulate ourselves from what the Russians did in the future, but -- it is quite possible.
But what -- the president's response to this investigation will have a far more lasting, damaging impact on the independence, the reputation and the ability of the Justice Department and the intelligence community.
BLITZER: Have you been informed, as a member of the Intelligence Committee, when exactly you will be able to read the Mueller report?
QUIGLEY: Here's what we know so far.
We're going to get the same report as everyone tomorrow. And, eventually, we will get a less redacted report. And I don't know that that's actually official at this point. And we're not even sure who within Congress might get to see that.
It is absolutely nonsense. The Intelligence Committee works on extraordinarily sensitive classified information vital to our nation's security. Nothing in this report will come close to that.
The only reason they would want to keep it from us is to keep it away from our understanding of the bigger picture. And understand that this began as a counterintelligence investigation. Was the president of the United States compromised? Was anyone around him compromised?
Those investigations need to continue. That's why we need the full report and the underlying documentation that comes with it.
BLITZER: Are you surprised at how this is all unfolding right now?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL): No. If anyone is disappointed, they haven't watched what's taking place over the last two years. If anyone expects any sort of transparency from this White House, they were expecting Santa Claus to deliver.
BLITZER: Do you believe that information should be made available to every member of Congress, the most sensitive information, or do you agree with the Justice Department that it should be restricted to only certain lawmakers?
QUIGLEY: I don't know what we're talking about. If it's classified information, then certainly it should just go to the intelligence committees. So there's a broad spectrum, if you will, of information out there. And what should be available to each member of Congress will depend on what's out there. So we're just as in the dark as anyone else right now.
But the fact of the matter is, certainly, the gang of eight and the Intelligence Committee should get all this information and almost certainly the oversight committees and the judicial committees should get the full report because they can receive it in classified form and a classified setting. So the only thing that's getting This from happening is the fact that the White House isn't comfortable
with that getting out to anyone else because as we know all too well that this won't exonerate the President of the United States. They are obviously nervous about it.
BLITZER: We know that some staffers inside the White House, current and former, are now having deep regrets about having cooperated with the Special Counsel's investigation. Does that tell you anything about what might be revealed in the report tomorrow?
QUIGLEY: Well, I think that those who cooperate are probably going to see their fingerprints on this if they're not named directly. So, obviously, they are concerned. Let's just look at public sourcing and the fact that the President, through Tweets and what have you, intimidated witnesses, called people rats who cooperated on investigations. So it's clear that they are dealing with almost a mob style mentality, the person they work for.
BLITZER: Do you expect this report to give your committee, the Intelligence Committee, new leads to investigate?
QUIGLEY: I think if the full report gets to us, it certainly will on a counterintelligence basis and on issues dealing with obstruction. Recognize our purpose was not the same as the Special Counsel. Our purpose was to find out exactly what took place and educate and inform the American public, make sure this sort of thing didn't take place before. There is public record of collusion and obstruction. It should be cold comfort for the American public that it wasn't in the Special Counsel's mind meeting a burden beyond a reasonable doubt on a criminal basis. And even that was left to Mr. Barr. And, again, Mr. Barr had already written a report saying that it wasn't going to happen.
BLITZER: Congressman Quigley, thanks so much for joining us.
QUIGLEY: Thank you.
BLITZER: All right. Let's dig deeper into all of this with our experts, our analysts, our correspondents. And, Gloria, this Jerry Nadler Tweet that the report is not going to be made available to the public until 11:00 or 12:00 tomorrow after the news conference at 9:30 A.M. that the Attorney General is having with reporters over at the Justice Department. That's pretty extraordinary.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It's not going to -- Congress isn't going to be briefed on it. So when you think of this sort of sequence of events here, you have an Attorney General who has written a four-page letter summarizing the report or bottom lining it, as he calls it, redacted the report, talked to the White House about it, given a press conference about it at 9:30 A.M. tomorrow morning all before members of Congress have seen it. So I think when Nadler says he's troubled by this, I kind of don't blame him. The Attorney General seems to be doing an end run around the democrats.
BLITZER: It is, Jeffrey Toobin, pretty extraordinary. He's going to have a news conference, they're releasing the report, but the reporters apparently, if you believe Jerry Nadler, the Chairman of Judiciary Committee, the reporters will not have seen the report when they are supposed to ask him questions.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Barr is rolling this out like a campaign document, doing it in the way that will help his candidate the most. Over and over again, he is now characterizing it before anybody else has a chance to read it and see whether he's characterizing it accurately. But most Americans tomorrow will first hear about the Mueller report through the lens of Barr who already has a clear view of what it contains. And his commentary several weeks ago in the four-page letter has already shaped perceptions of it, accurately or not. And he's continuing this up to the bitter end.
BLITZER: Yes. I mean, it's pretty extraordinary. I've covered Washington for a while now. They released an important report like this and he is going to make a statement and answer questions before the reporters can even have a chance to read it.
DAVID SWERDLICK, ASSISTANT EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: It is extraordinary. And as Jeffrey said, it allowed Barr both three-and-a- half weeks and tomorrow presumably to set the narrative. You can imagine an alternative universe, Wolf, where tomorrow, both the four- page letter and the redacted report and the press conference were all happening at the same time, then I think the Justice Department could sort of come out there and say with strength, look, this has been a transparent process and we're giving you all the information now.
But instead, you have a situation where they allowed the narrative to set and now, they are sort of backfilling with the actual details of the information and it does allow people to reach the conclusion that the fix was in, maybe not that the Attorney General did anything illegal but that he did not sort of follow the spirit of this investigation.
BLITZER: Now, if he doesn't explain what he is doing at 9:30, Sabrina, tomorrow morning, when he makes an opening statement, then takes reporters' questions, the first question from a reporter should be, with all due respect, Attorney General, why are you having this news conference now as opposed to after we've all had a chance to go through the redacted 400-page report?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: And I anticipate that's exactly what will happen. The Attorney General will face a number of questions about the process and not just the substance of the report, which reporters can't actually comment on because they haven't seen it. And those process questions will not only be about the four-page letter, in which he summarized the Special Counsel's findings but also about the rollout of the report and the extent to which the Justice Department has been in contact with the White House.
The big question over the last several weeks has been whether or not the Attorney General is acting in the interest of the President and if he's trying to protect the President in the way that he has shaped the public's understanding of report. And the sequence of events, the actions that he continues to take up until the release of this redacted version do signal he is trying to at least frame the narrative before anyone, whether its members of Congress or the American public, have had a chance to reach these conclusions on their own.
BLITZER: And as much as I would like to ask the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General and other reporters love it when they have a news conference that we can go in there and ask tough, serious, important questions. I would really like to hear from and ask some of those tough questions to Robert Mueller, who spent two years, 22 months working on this. His report is finally, at least the redacted version, being released. It would be nice if he shows up at a news conference after we've gone through the report and then answer some questions.
BORGER: Well, I wouldn't bet on it. And you have to ask the question of why the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General are going to be characterizing and have been characterizing Bob Mueller's work without hearing from Bob Mueller. At some point, of course, he may be called to testify before Congress.
But if you will recall, he did not sign off on the four-page letter that Bill Barr wrote. And I think that was probably very smart because that would have looked like some kind of endorsement of the way that Barr had characterized his so-called bottom line findings. And what we don't know because we haven't seen the Mueller report, even a redacted version of it, which we'll get tomorrow, is whether Barr's characterization was accurate. We just don't know. And all we're hearing from is Barr.
TOOBIN: And remember too, Barr is going to be able to say, I read the whole report, every single page. And my conclusions are A, B and C. The rest of us are only going to see the redacted report. So he has an advantage not only in terms of time because he will be out there first but he'll be able to say, well, based on the full report, my conclusions are as follows. You poor people only get to see what I allow you to see.
Now, in fairness, we don't know how extensive the reactions will be and maybe they'll be minor and that won't be a big deal, but if they are substantial, I think that calls into question the process even more.
BLITZER: Would it be appropriate for Mueller or some members of Mueller's team to be at that news conference tomorrow to show up? Because Bill Barr, himself, said Mueller and his team were helping him decide what to redact.
TOOBIN: Well, if the Mueller team could honestly answer questions and say was -- does the redaction distort the meaning at all, do you think the Attorney General has behaved appropriately here, sure, it would be good to have them answer questions. If they were just standing there as props for Attorney General Barr, then the I don't think it would be (INAUDIBLE).
BORGER: And the biggest question is did you intend for him to make a decision on obstruction or did you intend for that to be left up to Congress and the American people?
TOOBIN: So the answer, I think, Gloria, and I agree, is that, yes, it would be good to have Mueller there if he would actually answer questions, not just stand there as a supporting player.
[18:40:09] BLITZER: David, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler, he Tweeted his disapproval of what Bill Barr is doing. Attorney General Barr wrote to me on April 1st, I do not believe it would in the public's interest for me to attempt to summarize the full report. That's a quote. I agree, Nadler says. So why is the Attorney General holding a press conference tomorrow morning to go over the Mueller report #ReleaseTheReport?
SWERDLICK: So I think in hindsight, maybe we didn't understand this at that time. But that word, summarize, was a carefully chosen word because Barr has already come out and said, my letter, my four-page letter on March 24th, wasn't a summary, it was a synopsis of the conclusion.
BLITZER: The principal conclusion.
SWERDLICK: The principal conclusions, not all the details. And I think that plus what Jeffrey was saying a moment suggest, look, Barr has, to an extent, obscured what really matters here. What matters at this point to a large degree, in my view, is not whether or not an indictable crime was committed. It's what happened these last two, three years. And at least Congress and, in my view, the American people's right to just know what is going on.
BLITZER: Sabrina, now, The New York Times is reporting over the past few weeks there had been, in the words of The New York Times, numerous conversations between Justice Department officials and White House lawyers, not the President's personal lawyers, White House lawyers about the substance, the content of the Mueller report.
SIDDIQUI: And that was a big question. To what extent has there been any form of coordination perhaps behind the scenes between the Justice Department and the White House, at a minimum, by informing the White House of some of the substance of the report, the Justice Department has given the White House the opportunity to also frame the narrative when it comes how the public is going to receive this redacted version of the report tomorrow. We can anticipate hearing from the President himself.
But I think, ultimately, one of the big questions is what the Attorney General is going to say about his own rationale and his own thinking when it comes to that letter and why he said that he did not believe the evidence was sufficient to bring obstruction charges against the President. And he will be doing so once again by citing a report that no one else has actually seen. So this really is going to be an opportunity for the Justice Department to, again, in fact, to summarize the report while everyone else is still waiting to see what's in it.
BORGER: When Barr testified before Congress, he wouldn't say what his communications had been, if any, with the White House. You have to wonder why he didn't want to talk about it. Now, The New York Times is reporting there has been, it explains a lot, of course, because Donald Trump has gotten more and more frantic, it seems to me, in his Tweeting about the Mueller report and also Trump told the radio interviewer there are going to be very strong things in the Mueller report.
Now, what that means, we don't really know. But you can tell from the President's behavior that he's been increasingly upset about what might be in this Mueller report. And maybe Barr feels the need to kind of explain it a little bit before we read it.
BLITZER: The President Tweeted earlier this morning, 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. So we know how he feels about that investigation.
BORGER: We do.
TOOBIN: I think I've read that Tweet about 30 times, the exact same Tweet.
BLITZER: But that was today.
TOOBIN: I know. But, I mean, it's not like this view is new. I think that's kind of a greatest hits version of the Tweet on this subject. It's got everybody in there.
BLITZER: But a few weeks ago right after that four-page letter was released by the Attorney General, he was asked if Mueller's investigation, if Mueller was honorable, he said, yes.
TOOBIN: Yes. That was --
BORGER: That was before --
SWERDLICK: And then this is now.
TOOBIN: I don't know, Wolf. You explain the thought process. I can't go into Donald Trump's head here. It's above my pay grade. I have no idea.
SWERDLICK: I agree that it's a sort of a repeat or a greatest hits. The use of the phrase, dirty cops, jumped out at me. That is a notch past. The FBI, DOJ, in quote, says we've seen many times. That is the kind of thing that, I'm sorry so say, a common street criminal might say if they thought they were being railroaded by the police. It's clear from the conclusions of Attorney General Barr that they're not indicting for a crime. It's apparent that they don't think any crimes were committed. But the President is certainly Tweeting as if he feels like he has something to hide.
BORGER: I think that's a reaction to Barr saying they were spying and the President then take it one step further saying dirty cops because who spies when they're not supposed to? Dirty cops, I guess.
BLITZER: Well, you think that this news conference tomorrow morning, presumably if you believe Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee before any of us got a chance to look at this 400- page report. [18:45:07] Do you think he's doing to start talking about, quote,
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I'm sure he will be asked to explain in more detail why he would make that statement which came off to many as being unequivocal about the fact that something illicit had had happened. Now, he did try to walk those comments in a very hearing by saying he didn't have any evidence to suggest the spying was, in fact, illegal, but he was talking about what was authorized surveillance and whether or not something improper had occurred.
When it comes to the president, though, it's important to note, you know, on one day, the day that he felt that the report had exonerated him, he called the special counsel, he called Robert Mueller an honorable man but he has spent the last two years essentially trying to discredit the entire investigation. So, I think you'll see the president strike that same tone as the public has the chance to consume what's in the report.
And remember, after the attorney general's initial four page letter you did have some members, not all, but some members voice frustration through the media that they felt that letter significantly downplayed what they had actually found during the course of their investigation. So, another question will be, what you might hear from some of those same members of the special counsel's team with respect to the redacted version of the report and to what extent Mueller himself embraces those redactions.
BLITZER: For 22 months, that team was very silent. There weren't in leaks, if any at all.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: None at all, as far as I'm aware. Zero. Notwithstanding the fact that the president kept calling them 13 angry Democrats led by an established Republican, which he never seemed to mention.
But I don't think the president worries about being contradictory. The -- two things he's certain to say tomorrow are, one, this is a complete exoneration. Complete proof. No collusion. Big waste of time.
Second, anyone who says anything negative about him in there is a liar, is a terrible person. And I think that dual message while internally contradictory is something that's pre-ordained with Donald Trump. 9
BLITZER: We're also learning several current and former White House officials are nervous right now that they had decided to cooperate with Mueller.
Let me put up a picture of some of the Trump officials who were interviewed. They volunteered. They went in there. They were told, you know what, there's nothing wrong. You have nothing to hide. Go ahead and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. But now, they are deeply concerned in this report what they said about
the president may come back and the president might retaliate against them.
DAVID SWERDLICK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Sure. And if you're still a Trump loyalist and you still value your job in the administration or someone close to be president, you probably would be nervous, and that's understandable. But at the end of the day, look, any of these people who spoke to "New York Times" are better off if they just told the truth to investigators because down the road, they could be caught in a situation where they could be indicted for them.
TOOBIN: And can I say one thing about, you know, their concern? So what? You know, they work for the taxpayers.
TOOBIN: They don't work for Donald Trump.
And the idea they didn't want to cooperate because Donald Trump would retaliate against them, well, maybe you shouldn't work for Donald Trump because one of your responsibilities when you work in the White House, which is a pretty important place, is that you cooperate with law enforcement.
BLITZER: Yes --
TOOBIN: And so, the -- I'm sorry?
BLITZER: You know you make a good point, Gloria. When the New York time phrased it, a sense of paranoia is taking hold of some the president's aides.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, sure, because they know he's going to punch back, as he says. But what is he going to say? Let's just -- let's just play this out a little bit.
These are people who testified under oath, OK? They are not just talking to a journalist. They are testifying under oath.
Donald Trump did not testify under oath. He did not go in and sit down with the special counsel, which is something that his lawyers were very smart to do, I might add.
But what is he going to say about them? They lied under oath. It is fake. What these people are saying is fake because they lied. Well, they were under oath.
I'm not sure what the president can say. Maybe they afraid they will get demoted or he will hate them. Many of those people are no longer in the administration, I might add. But what are you afraid of?
BLITZER: They're afraid of retaliation down the road.
SIDDIQUI: They're afraid of retaliation and they're afraid of the fact that they spoke the truth. One also important aspect of this is that we have seen some of the
indictments, of course, against the former and current Trump administration or campaign officials. But up until now, a lot of the public's understanding of the witnesses who have cooperated with the investigation and what they may have talked about with investigators have been based on reporting, solid and thorough reporting by members of the press.
But I think it takes on a whole new meaning when you will have a report and voice of investigators recounting who these witnesses were and what they were able to share in terms of the actions both of the Trump campaign as well as the transition and the administration.
[18:50:07] BLITZER: You think, Jeffrey, tomorrow is part of this 400- page report, we're going to actually see the Q&A that the president in writing did with the Mueller team?
TOOBIN: Wolf, you ask good questions, that's why you have this job you have. I don't know. I mean --
BLITZER: That would be significant.
TOOBIN: -- it would be very appropriate. It would be very appropriate.
BLITZER: Here is the questions that we asked. Here is the president's response, publish the whole thing.
TOOBIN: Or -- I mean, that would be ideal. But I would imagine that in the narrative the president's view as expressed in his answers to those written questions would be summarized or quoted in some way. But the full text, I mean, it should be.
BORGER: And, remember, the answers were only on collusion. Not about obstruction. It might be in the narrative on collusion.
TOOBIN: Right. Right he refused to any questions about his --
BLITZER: Whatever it is, I'm interested in reading --
BLITZER: What his lawyers wrote, yes --
SWERDLICK: The reporters that are in those briefing -- either the one or the two briefings tomorrow, that should be one of the top questions asked. Will we see the president's written answers to the written questions? If not, why not?
BLITZER: And, Gloria makes a good point, Sabrina, the president's lawyers vetted, went through all those questions and they fine-tuned every answer.
SIDDIQUI: Absolutely. And we know that one of the issues that they were concerned with was the prospect of the president committing perjury. That's why they didn't want to put him in front of the special counsel. But, you know, as we digest the redacted version of the report tomorrow when it arrives it's important to remember that there is still a lot of unanswered questions in part because of the redactions which frankly will hold a lot more information, particularly with respect to the counterintelligence information.
And, you know, if one of the bottom lines as William Barr put it is that investigators could not find a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow. We are still going to have a lot more that we won't know about the pattern of context between the Trump campaign and Moscow or members of the Trump administration and the Russians, and perhaps a lot of those questions won't be answered until the members of the Congress get their own version where they get to see the redactions as the attorney general has promised he will share with them.
BLITZER: I'll be interested tomorrow and you will as well, Jeffrey, the behavior of the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein at the 9:30 a.m. news conference. He will show up. Will he stand there? Will he make a statement? Will he answer reporter questions even if we haven't seen the Mueller report yet?
TOOBIN: My money is on standing there.
TOOBIN: I think that's the -- Rod Rosenstein has been this peculiar Shakespearean character but with a very important role. I mean, after all, he is the person who wrote the memo that led to firing of James Comey. He is the person who named Robert Mueller. He is the person who supervised the Mueller investigation.
I mean, he has been off -- he has been nearly fired apparently several times. He is on in very long farewell tour where he appears to be finally leaving as deputy attorney general. But he has resisted being center stage. And I think he will be only too happy to allow William Barr to be the spokesman.
BORGER: This may be his last appearance.
BLITZER: I suspect he has a book down the road at some point if he is interested.
Everybody, stand by. There's more much on all the breaking news right after this.
[18:57:17] BLITZER: We're following another important story this one in Colorado, where an FBI official this afternoon said an investigation continues in order to identify any possible accomplices who could have helped a Florida woman who they considered a credible threat to schools in the Denver area including the Columbine High School. The woman was found dead today.
CNN's Martin Savidge was at the FBI news conference, joining us live from Denver. Martin, tell us the latest.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they are definitely running down leads to make sure that Sol Pais was acting alone in all of this. As you say her body was found this morning. It was located on the Mount Evans area, that's about 60 to 70 miles from Columbine. And the FBI says she died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and that the weapon used was the same weapon that she purchased after she arrived in Denver.
But here is what they want to make sure. Was there any other plan that maybe she had accomplices? Was this just some sort of extravagant suicide attempt? Or did she have some sort of other ideas of attacking the school and change her mind? Or are there other people waiting out there today other things?
They cannot have the luxury of waiting especially on this the 20th anniversary of the horrible attack at Columbine, wolf. They continue to look to see if there is anything else.
BLITZER: Yes, that's Saturday 20 years since the massacre occurred.
What are you learning about her mental state, Martin, and the activity leading up to her travel from Florida to Colorado?
SAVIDGE: And that's the key here, Wolf. That is everything, because it appears that when she disappeared on Sunday -- that's the week of, of course, the lead up to this terrible tragedy, it is when the FBI and authorities began asking questions. There were people they talked to said she was in a dark frame of mind and did seem to have this fascination with Columbine.
Online, they found a journal. They found very direct connections to images and words she was using, talking about Columbine. She's gone missing. She buys three one-way airline tickets for the 15, 16 and 17 to come to Denver and then the FBI learns online she's bought a gun.
Here is the troubling thing in all of that scenario, Wolf. Every time the FBI learned something, it had already happened. The FBI here didn't know that she was here until she was already in Denver and had already purchased a gun.
And that's when the alerts went out yesterday, district-wide, to all the schools in the Denver area. They went into a lockout. And today, they just completely shut down. Was it worth it? The FBI says if you ask any parent, they will tell you it was -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The full story. All right. Martin Savidge in Denver for us, thanks very much.
And don't forget, CNN's special coverage of the release of the Mueller report begins tomorrow morning 6:00 a.m. Eastern. You can join Jake Tapper and me at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.