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Trump Spews Torrent Of Insults And Lies, Slams Mueller As "Conflicted;" Mueller Attended McGahn Questioning But Did Not Participate; Interview With William Cohen, Former Defense Secretary, On His "Washington Post" Op-Ed. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 30, 2019 - 17:00   ET

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


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JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Thanks for watching.

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WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now: boiling over. President Trump unleashes a torrent of insults and outright lies as he boils over with rage against special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation.

He may be really worried about impeachment which he calls a, quote, "dirty, disgusting, filthy word."

Blaming Bob: the Attorney General William Barr openly contradicts Mueller saying he disagrees with the counsel's failure to reach a decision on whether the president obstructed justice.

Mocking Mueller: Russian officials take a cue from President Trump, mocking Mueller and his investigation, especially the stark conclusion that Moscow attacked America's democracy.

And evil ambition: even after President Trump publicly undermined his own advisers and a key ally by siding with Kim Jong-un, North Korea has unleashed a new attack, accusing America of evil ambition and insulting the dictator's regime.

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: a day after Robert Mueller's refusal to publicly clear the president, attorney general William Barr's openly questioning Mueller's failure to reach a decision on the question of obstruction.

That comes shortly after President Trump unleashed a stunning tirade against the special counsel and his investigation, spitting out a string of falsehoods, lies, insults. He described Mueller as a totally conflicted never Trumper and after admitting in a tweet that Russia helped him get elected, the president turned around and denied that and he said, and I'm quoting him now, "I got me elected."

After slamming the late Senator John McCain, the president described the well-meaning that the apparent move had by White House officials to have the Navy keep the USS John S. McCain out of view during his visit to Japan. The president may have revealed what's really on his mind, the growing Democratic calls for impeachment, calling that -- and I'm quoting the president now -- "a dirty, filthy, disgusting word."

I'll speak with former congressman, former senator, former Defense Secretary William Cohen and our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top stories.

Let's begin with our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, the president seems really rattled by Robert Mueller's public statement and the reaction to it.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Trump gave fact checkers quite a workout today as he opened up a firehose of falsehoods on Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

That performance came after he -- the president appeared to accidentally concede that the Russians helped him win the 2016 election.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): One day after special counsel Robert Mueller left the door open to the possibility that the president has engaged in criminal behavior, Mr. Trump fired back.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Mueller is a true never Trumper. He's somebody that dislikes Donald Trump. He's somebody that didn't get a job that he requested, that he wanted very badly. And then he was appointed.

And despite that and despite $40 million, 18 Trump haters, including people that worked for Hillary Clinton and some of the worst human beings on Earth, they got nothing. It's pretty amazing.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But much of what the president said wasn't true.

For starters, the latest estimated cost of the Mueller report and Russia investigation is $25 million, not $40 million.

As for the president's claim that Mueller was conflicted, former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon told investigators that assertion was ridiculous.

The president also said that Mueller wanted the position of FBI director. But that's not true, either, according to White House aides, who said Mueller did not come in looking for the position, a job he had during the Bush and Obama administrations.

Still, earlier in the day, the president appeared to make a startling admission, tweeting, "Russia, Russia, Russia, that's all you heard at the beginning of this witch hunt hoax. And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected."

But the president later tried to clean up that part about Russia helping him get elected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No, Russia did not help me get elected. You know who got me elected? You know who got me elected?

I got me elected. Russia didn't help me at all. Russia, if anything, I think, helped the other side.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Here's the reality. A 2017 U.S. intelligence community report stated, "We further assess Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump."

And then there's the president's personal call for Russian assistance during the campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president also appeared sickened by the --

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ACOSTA (voice-over): -- idea of being impeached.

TRUMP: To me, it's a dirty word, the word impeach. It's a dirty, filthy, disgusting word. And it had nothing to do with me.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Even as Democrats are using that I word more and more.

REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D), PENNSYLVANIA: I believe we should open an impeachment inquiry. That is just a more robust version, a more robust name and direct name to the oversight that we were already involved in.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president claimed he had nothing to do with efforts made by the White House military office to hide the U.S.S. John McCain from Mr. Trump during his recent trip to Japan. But Mr. Trump said he appreciated the move, aimed at sparing the president the sight of the ship.

TRUMP: I don't know what happened. I wasn't involved. I would not have done that. I was very angry with John McCain because he killed health care. I was not a big fan of John McCain in any way, shape or form.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Former Vice President Joe Biden said McCain's legacy should be honored.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John McCain was a war hero, should be treated as a war hero. Anything less than that is beneath anyone who doesn't treat him that way. It's just -- he is a hero.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: The president says he will be taking a big announcement about the border and border enforcement later on today. CNN has learned the administration is working on a proposal to make it more difficult for Central American migrants to ask for asylum at the border. So we'll be looking for that to come down in the next couple of hours -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll stay in touch with you. Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.

The attorney general William Barr today openly contradicted Robert Mueller on the question of criminal activity. Let's bring in our Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez.

Evan, Barr told CBS News he disagrees with Mueller's decision to not reach the conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice.

What exactly did he say?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you'll remember that Robert Mueller said that one reason why he would not make a decision on whether or not the president obstructed justice, violated the law, was because of a longstanding Justice Department directive -- OLC opinion, it's known as -- that says you cannot indict a sitting president and also out of fairness because the president cannot be indicted. He can't defend himself. Bill Barr disagrees with that. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: He could have reached a conclusion. The opinion says you cannot indict a president while he's in office but he could have reached a decision as to whether it was criminal activity.

But he had his reasons for not doing it, which he explained. And I'm not going to, you know, argue about those reasons.

But when he didn't make a decision, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and I felt it was necessary for us, as the heads of the department, to reach that decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PEREZ: And you heard him there say that Robert Mueller could not make a decision. There's a distinction. Mueller says he would not make a decision. He said he wouldn't even consider whether there was an obstruction crime here because of that OLC opinion in the first place.

BLITZER: Evan, I understand you also have some new inside information about how Mueller led the investigation over nearly two years.

What are you learning?

PEREZ: That's right. This is reporting from me as well as Laura Jarrett, Jeremy Herb and Pamela Brown.

We talked to more than a dozen people who had some contact with the Mueller investigation. And one of the things we learned is that even people who were close to this investigation found him to be an enigmatic figure.

He was in some interviews that came in, some of the witnesses that came in for interviews. He did not show up for others. For instance, he was there when Don McGahn sat down for his 30 hours or so of interviews.

When Paul Manafort came in, day after day, during the time he was supposed to be cooperating, Mueller was not there.

And so what we come away from is that, obviously, a lot of people are still waiting to hear from Robert Mueller. Even despite yesterday, his 10-minute address that he had yesterday, press conference he had yesterday, people still want to hear from him in Congress, obviously, in testimony. And he's unwilling to give it.

One of the more interesting things we found out in our reporting, Wolf, is that there was this crisis with the members of the president's legal team. They wanted, they demanded a meeting with Mueller after the president's name showed up in a court document related to Jerome Corsi, an associate of the president.

In the end, Mueller did not show up for the meeting they had at the Justice Department. It goes to show you that, in some places, even the president's lawyers had a hard time getting a meeting with Robert Mueller.

BLITZER: What does it tell you that Mueller did choose to be present for that interview with the then White House counsel Don McGahn?

PEREZ: Don McGahn is one of the key witnesses on the issue of obstruction, on the issue of the president. And Mueller, it appears, was more closely managing that part of the investigation that had to do with the president. It had to do with whether or not the president committed a crime in obstructing the --

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PEREZ: -- investigation. And I think that might explain why he was there. He even apologized when he had to step away for a little while to do something and then came back in during the time that McGahn was sitting for those interviews.

BLITZER: Evan Perez, good reporting, you and the team. Thank you very much.

Joining us now, William Cohen, he's a former Republican congressman and senator who served as Defense Secretary during the Clinton administration. He sat on the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate impeachment inquiry and has written a stinging "The Washington Post" op-ed aimed at Republicans.

And the article, a very strong article, Mr. Secretary.

"When will the Republican silence on Trump end?"

In the article you write this, among other things, "The silence of Republicans today in the face of presidential behavior that is unacceptable by any reasonable standard is both striking and deeply disappointing."

How do you explain that silence?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I explain it by fear, that the Republicans are fearful that if they do anything at all that contradicts the president or undercuts his, quote, "credibility," that they'll have a primary opponent.

Secondly, they may very well agree with him. Whether they are acting out of fear or complicity is not the question for me.

The question is why aren't they willing to defend the Constitution in the face of this fear or in face of their own judgments on this?

BLITZER: It's very interesting; Republican congressman Justin Amash of Michigan is out on a limb by himself. He's the only Republican calling for an impeachment inquiry to begin.

But you say that privately you've heard from other Republicans, that they agree with him.

COHEN: They do. The ones I've talked with, they expressed the same sentiments, that this president has engaged in conduct that, frankly, they would not accept from any other president in the history of this country.

If you can imagine Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, anyone else having done anything of these things dealing with obstruction of justice, obstruction of the investigation itself, they wouldn't have hesitated to move to bring an impeachment article.

BLITZER: You served on the House Judiciary Committee during the Nixon impeachment inquiry.

And when you broke with the Republican Party, Republican Congress, there's a picture of a young William Cohen, we're showing our viewers right now. When you broke with your own Republican Party, you thought your career was going to be over.

So what advice do you give Republicans right now, who think that they should begin some sort of impeachment inquiry but are refusing to do so?

COHEN: You weren't elected to simply seek re-election. Your job is one where you took an oath to defend the Constitution against enemies, foreign and domestic. You have an obligation to hold the president and any other official to the highest standards of a fiduciary.

Because when we take an oath to serve the public, only our interests can be at stake here, not -- in terms of serving the public's interest, we cannot act out of self-promotion or self-aggrandizement, self-enrichment, none of that, only for our interests as serving as fiduciaries.

So I just think the Republicans have to decide whether they are willing to be defeated. And I think, in my own case, I did not expect to come back to the United States Congress. I had a very popular opponent. I had most of the Republicans who had turned against me saying, we'll never support you again.

Until the tapes came out that showed that President Nixon had, in fact, engaged in a massive cover-up. Then the sentiment shifted and they said, you were right. We were wrong. We should have trusted your judgment.

So I would say to other congressmen, saying, do what you know is right, what you feel is right. Don't worry about whether you come back or not. That's not your mission. Your mission is to get at the truth and only the truth.

BLITZER: Because in your article in "The Washington Post," you point out correctly that the American public was not on board beginning some sort of impeachment process when you guys started thinking about that in 1974.

You write this, "It's also important to remember that public opinion is not anchored in concrete. It shifts, according to the information it finds to be persuasive and free of rank partisanship."

So you're saying -- are you saying right now that you believe Congress should at least begin the process of impeachment?

COHEN: I think, inevitably, they'll have to. I think that Speaker Pelosi is doing the right thing by saying, not yet. There has to be more evidence gathered. There are lots of testimony that has to be incorporated as they proceed.

But I think it's inevitable. The question is one of timing.

Is it better to proceed now with impeachment or do it later?

My own recommendation would be sooner is better than later. But it's going to require bringing witnesses in and having live testimony, having the public understand what Mr. Mueller has said. And as he indicated yesterday, read the report but present it to the American people --

[17:15:00] COHEN: -- so they know what it says. Most people have not read his book. It is a textbook. And people don't read textbooks today for the most part unless you're a professional such as you and other media individual. But it's there to be read. It's there to be presented to the American people.

BLITZER: Very other issue, a very sensitive issue, the late senator John McCain. You and Senator McCain were very close over many years.

What's your reaction when you heard this report, that some White House officials wanted the U.S.S. John S. McCain far away from the president during his recent visit to Japan because they thought it would upset him?

COHEN: Well, I think, first of all, it was petty on their part and rather pathetic, given who John McCain is or was and represents to this day to this country. The fact that anyone in the White House would feel that the president doesn't want to see his name under any circumstances.

Now I assume the president didn't know about this. I give him benefit of the doubt here that he was unaware of it. But also know the fact that it comes from the top and as Michael Cohen said, everybody knows what he wants, even if he doesn't say it.

And I believe that he did not want to see John McCain's name on that ship, John S. McCain, for the father and grandfather basically, rather than John, who was added ultimately. But he didn't want to see that. And he was glad he didn't.

So I think it comes from the top. He sets the mood and the tone. They know what he wants and they're doing it. I think the military ought to be held accountable.

Who authorized this and why did you do it?

Because one thing we don't want to see is the military being politicized, people wearing the make America great hats, patches, they are not President Trump's military. He likes to say it's my military.

No. It's America's military. And they shouldn't be pro- or anti- Trump or any other individual. They serve the American people. And they are to not be exploited for political purposes.

BLITZER: But this is very personal. You served as -- correct me if I'm wrong -- best man at Senator McCain's wedding with Cindy McCain. And so you have a longstanding friendship with the late senator.

What did you think of the way the president, when he was asked about this today, responded -- and he keeps pointing out, even though Senator McCain has passed away, he keeps pointing out how he disagreed with him on health care and the war in Iraq and other issues.

COHEN: Well, he also continues to say he was no hero. Anyone who knows John McCain, knows about him, there's no question he was a hero of tremendous proportions. And also the fact that John was a hero on a global scale.

Whether you were talking about Japan or China or any other place, they looked to him as a man of great courage, who would endure tremendous personal suffering and still not yield his place in going back to the United States. That takes a real hero. It takes real courage.

And I think when the president is unable to have even a grace note, a note that said, yes, he was a hero. I disagreed with him. I regret the fact he voted against me but we ought to raise up and say, John McCain, you served this country nobly and served it well. And even though I disagree with you, I'm proud of the service that you rendered to this country.

That's all he has to say and show that he has some note of grace in his soul.

BLITZER: Secretary Cohen, thanks very much for coming in.

COHEN: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

Up next, what's behind the president's latest torrent of insults, falsehoods and lies?

Is he worried about impeachment, which he now calls "a dirty, filthy, disgusting word."

And Attorney General Barr openly contradicting Robert Mueller, questioning his failure to reach a decision on whether the president committed obstruction.

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BLITZER: President Trump now heading back here to Washington after giving the commencement speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy early this morning before leaving the White House for Colorado.

The president unloaded on the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who spoke publicly yesterday for the first time. Let's bring in our political and legal analysts.

In the process of answering reporters' questions for, what, nearly 20 minutes earlier this morning on the South Lawn of the White House, he unleashed a string of lies and falsehoods, the president.

Was that a result of the realization that the fallout from the Russia investigation clearly is far from over?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Are you asking me to tell you what's in Donald Trump's head?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good luck.

BORGER: Not so sure that I can do that. On the one hand, Donald Trump is telling people who are close to him -- and this is my reporting, Dana Bash's reporting, Abby Phillips' reporting -- that he relishes the idea of impeachment because it can mobilize his base. And he'll be able to have an enemy and he can fight back and it will be bad for the Democrats and it will get him re-elected.

On the other hand, I think what we saw today was the shame of it, the sense and the understanding that any impeachment inquiry would be losing from the day it started. And it would be shameful for him. And it would be something that would drag him down. And I think that's what we heard when he talked --

[17:25:00]

BORGER: -- about it today, using that language. It was surprising to me because it kind of opened the door a little bit on his narcissism and how he would react to that because everybody would be talking about him, not in a positive way but about all the things he might have done wrong.

BLITZER: It's interesting. The president tweeted something today that he previously had denied. I'll read it to you.

"I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected."

And then when he was meeting with reporters, he walked that back. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: No, Russia did not help me get elected. You know who got me elected? You know who got me elected?

I got me elected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Ahh, the "I got me elected."

Well, what explains that?

He said the quiet part out loud in the tweet, I think. He didn't mean to. I think went back, wasn't going to delete it because it became such a thing. So if he deleted it, it becomes even more of such a thing.

BLITZER: It's still up there.

CILLIZZA: He's acknowledging what the intelligence community unanimously concluded in 2017 and what was in the Mueller report, which is that Russia actively sought to interfere in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton.

Now how much help or hurt did they provide?

That's a very difficult thing to quantify. I think it is very difficult to make the argument that the targeted release via WikiLeaks of hacked emails from John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, and the Democratic National Committee had zero effect on the election, zero.

How much, however, you know, I don't know. The things the Russians we know did through Facebook via their troll farm. How much?

It's hard to quantify it but it's very hard to say it was zero. So Trump acknowledged what everyone already knew, which is that, yes, Russia tried to influence the election to help him win because they thought he'd be better for their interests. And then he unacknowledged it.

What does he really think?

I mean, I'm kind of with Gloria, trying to pick his brain on an -- it changes on any given day. I think he's been broadly consistent, however, in saying, look, I won fair and square, which it can be true that -- those two things can both be true. Russia sought to interfere and help him and he won without their help or would have won without their help. But he can't square those in his --

BLITZER: I want to hear from everyone but I'vegot to take a quick break. Much more on all these developments right after this.

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BLITZER: We're back with our analysts.

Phil Mudd, it wasn't that long ago that the President called Robert Mueller -- he said he acted honorably. But now all of a sudden, he is saying this is a total conflicted person. He's a true never-Trumper who hired 18 Trump haters, including, quote, some of the worst human beings on earth.

PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: The worst? I was among them. I was an FBI officer, so I'm glad to be among the worst. At least we're not the worst, we're just among the worst.

You know, a couple of things here. First, the President is alone here. His advisers, according to every report, came into him and said, the Special Counsel is not conflicted. Obviously, the Department of Justice looked at this and said there's no conflict here.

I'd say one other thing. Every time everybody watches the President of the United States get out in a speech and hug the flag and talk about the military -- and we can talk about, obviously, the controversy over the McCain ship. Senator McCain served. Mueller served honorably in Vietnam. McMaster

served. Kelly served. Mattis served.

Every time the President gets face-to-face at a senior level with someone who actually served, he goes back to bone spurs. He wants out.

So he could talk about honor, he can talk about how he loves the military. But face-to-face, it doesn't seem to work out too well.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, you know, Laura, the -- because the Justice Department ethics lawyers, they cleared Mueller of any conflict, of any wrongdoing, among other things. They said this. They addressed the issues.

As for Mueller's interview for FBI Director, Bannon -- Steve Bannon, the former aide to the President -- recalled that the White House had invited Mueller to speak to the President to offer a perspective on the institution of the FBI.

Bannon said that, although the White House thought about beseeching Mueller to become director again, he did not come in looking for the job.

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know who did come in looking for the job? Bill Barr. Unlike Robert Mueller who served, as Phil talked about, and then was chosen to be Special Counsel by Rod Rosenstein after the FBI director was fired, by the way, James Comey.

He, in fact, auditioned for the job with an 18-page memorandum, unsolicited, that said all the reasons why, essentially, it would be a foregone conclusion that he was never going to find obstruction of justice. And lo and behold, Volume 2 aside, that's exactly what he found.

So the notion of the President attacking and singling out the conflicts involved of Mueller and not highlighting the conflict that was inherent and explicitly stated when an 18-page memo was written is very shocking.

BLITZER: Yes, and I want you to listen, Gloria, about the looming threat of impeachment proceedings beginning in the House of Representatives. When asked about that this morning, the President had this rather bizarre response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To me, it's a dirty word, the word impeach. It's a dirty, filthy, disgusting word, and it had nothing to do with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He says it's a dirty, filthy, disgusting word, and it had nothing to do with me. What does that indicate to you? BORGER: I think it indicates that he is a little scared of it. Even

though he's got the bravado, which is, you know, it'll be good for me, it'll be good for my base.

[17:34:59] On the other hand, it's something that I think is unknown, frightening. The public could shift its opinion about him and about impeachment if there is -- if there are witnesses that would be very convincing to the American public.

So I think it's something when he says it's dirty, and it's like -- when something is dirty, you just want to toss it aside and push it -- push it out of your line of sight. And I think that is exactly what he'd like to do.

CILLIZZA: I mean, like, on many things, he's come across a lot of different ways on impeachment. He's tweeted out any number of times, including in the last 24 to 48 hours, how can you possibly impeach someone who's done nothing wrong?

He's tweeted that, how can you impeach someone who has the strongest economy in, you know, world history? Not since Mesopotamia has an economy been this strong.

You know, I mean, he, I think, doesn't totally grasp it, and I think that -- to Gloria's point, I think some of that is Donald Trump understands that things can go sideways. He thinks it's a good thing, broadly speaking, for him. Polling would suggest he's right. But he also knows this is a changeable process, and he can't control it.

Remember, impeachment moves through the House and the Senate. I think the -- the White House has limited ability to do much of anything on it, and I think that probably worries him a little. But, again, look at -- just type in impeach and Donald Trump in tweets. He sure does mention it a lot for somebody who's not, you know, terribly concerned about it.

BLITZER: You know, Laura, the Attorney General, William Barr, is now pushing back against Mueller, what he said yesterday. Listen to what Barr told CBS News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: He could have reached the conclusion, the opinion says you cannot indict a president while he's in office. But he could have reached a decision as to whether it was criminal activity.

But he had his reasons for not doing it, which he explained, and I'm not going to, you know, argue about those reasons. But when he didn't make a decision, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I felt it was necessary for us, as the heads of the department, to reach that decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is he right? COATES: Well, he told us when he gave a hearing in front of Congress

that it was his baby now and reminded everyone that Mueller worked for him. Certainly, yes, he could -- maybe he could have reached a conclusion, but he would've been violating what the essence of that policy and the OLC opinion said, which is not to indict a sitting president.

Now, Mueller made very clear that you could investigate a sitting president. You can absolutely do that. But his hands were, in fact, tied by that OLC opinion. As Special Counsel, he was, in fact, tied and had to abide by that.

Could he have reached a conclusion? Sure. But then what about the second pillar that Mueller talked about, the fairness aspect of it, the very reason that people like Rod Rosenstein vilified James Comey for tarring and feathering Hillary Clinton in the public square and then saying, we can't do anything about it? Well, that's what he's talking about.

I will say on that notion, though, the idea that the President of the United States could not have effectively combated that insinuation is odd, given he has the greatest pulpit of any American citizen, the presidency of the United States.

BLITZER: Everybody standby because there's more news we're following.

But, first, a very quick programming note. Democratic presidential candidate Senator Michael Bennet joins Dana Bash for a live CNN presidential town hall later tonight. Please be sure to tune in, 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, the Russians are now weighing in on Robert Mueller's first public statement in nearly two years, taking their cue from President Trump.

[17:38:26] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Trump isn't alone in attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation today. The Russians are echoing him.

Let's go to our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, who's joining us from Moscow. Fred, tell us more.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it's very interesting. The messaging coming from the Kremlin and generally here from Moscow, almost identical to that of the Trump administration.

Essentially, the Russians are saying they believe that this case should be closed and that they wouldn't mind if they never heard about the Special Counsel investigation again. Here's what we're learning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Tonight, the Kremlin trying to downplay Special Counsel Robert Mueller's emphatic statement that Russia systematically meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL, DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: And that allegation deserves the attention of every American.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Despite the Mueller report's clear finding and associated indictments, Moscow continues to deny attacking America's democracy, with Russian politicians blasting and even mocking the Special Counsel.

A senior member of Russia's Senate saying, quote, Mueller failed to put the blame on Russia as well as to prove Russia's connections to Trump. Now, he's trying to justify himself in front of those who have placed serious hopes in him.

TRUMP: And we all have a lot of questions.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Moscow claims it was mostly anti-Trump Democrats who pushed the Mueller probe, echoing Trump's own messaging that he repeated just this morning.

TRUMP: Eighteen Trump haters, including people that worked for Hillary Clinton, and some of the worst human beings on earth. They got nothing. It's pretty amazing.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Despite the Kremlin, today, submitting documents to suspend a key nuclear arms treaty with the U.S., both the Kremlin and Trump White House seem eager to move on and improve U.S./Russian relations.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Russia this month to meet both with Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to try and map out areas where Russia and the U.S. can cooperate.

Responding to CNN, Vladimir Putin's spokesman refused to even talk about Robert Mueller's statement.

[17:45:03] DMITRY PESKOV, PRESS SECRETARY FOR THE PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): No, I can't comment on that. We spent enough time talking about Mr. Mueller and the results of his work.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Russia has long said it wants to get relations with the U.S. back on track, claiming continued talk about election interference would only get in the way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PLEITGEN: And, Wolf, senior Russian officials are already saying they believe that the atmosphere between the Kremlin and the White House has improved since the end of the Mueller probe, and they certainly wouldn't want questions about election meddling to weigh on that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Fred Pleitgen in Moscow for us. Fred, thank you very much.

Coming up, a new blast of insults from North Korea despite President Trump's going out of his way to side with Kim Jong-un. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:50:23] BLITZER: Despite President Trump's disregarding his top advisers and allies this week to side with Kim Jong-un, North Korea just released a new blast of bitter insults aimed at the United States.

CNN's Brian Todd is here with us. Brian, what are they saying now?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, analysts are telling us tonight it took real nerve for the North Koreans to come out with this just a couple of days after President Trump was so conciliatory toward Kim Jong-un.

The North Koreans are accusing the Trump team of wanting to invade them, and they're taking aim with personal insults at two of the President's top advisers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Despite more than a year of de-escalation and declarations of love by President Trump --

TRUMP: And then we fell in love, O.K.?

TODD (voice-over): -- tonight, North Korea is once again attacking the President's administration. In a new statement, Kim Jong-un's Foreign Ministry saying, quote, there is no change at all in the American evil ambition to conquer North Korea by force.

EVANS REVERE, SENIOR ADVISOR, ALBRIGHT STONEBRIDGE GROUP: There really ought to be a Korean word for chutzpah. Unfortunately, there isn't one.

TODD (voice-over): The new broadside is especially surprising, given how conciliatory President Trump has been toward Kim Jong-un. In Japan in recent days, the President sided with the brutal North Korean dictator over his own national security adviser and Acting Defense Secretary who both said Kim's recent missile tests violated U.N. resolutions.

TRUMP: My people think it could have been a violation, as you know. I view it differently.

TODD (voice-over): And Trump even supported North Korea's insult of a prominent American, Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden, who Kim's regime called an imbecile and a fool of low I.Q.

TRUMP: Kim Jong-un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low I.Q. individual. He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with him on that.

COL. DAVID MAXWELL (RET.), SENIOR FELLOW, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: What it really shows is that our good words towards Kim Jong-un, the President's good words towards Kim Jong-un, will not change his behavior. This is more of an illustration of the true nature of the Kim family regime. And we will get nothing in return by being nice to Kim Jong-un.

TODD (voice-over): In its new statement, Kim's regime voiced, quote, grave concern that the U.S. had conducted so-called subcritical nuclear tests in February. Even though Kim said, last year, he had conducted his own such tests.

A subcritical nuclear test ensures all the components that make the bomb work, like the trigger are functional, without letting the bomb actually explode.

North Korea also slams Trump's national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the new statement, saying they, quote, have insulted the dignity of our supreme leadership and spitted out abusive language to North Korea.

MAXWELL: I think that is an effort to separate President Trump from his advisers. What Kim may be doing, one, is mirror imaging. He got bad advice from his own advisers. You know, he thinks that President Trump is getting bad advice from his. But I think that he would really like to purge Bolton and Pompeo from Trump's circle there.

TODD (voice-over): Tonight, veteran diplomats say they worry President Trump is so invested in good relations with the dictator that he now can't get tough with Kim.

REVERE: That's my fear, that the President is, every day, going out of his way to keep things on a positive plain when the actual thing that he could do right now that would advance denuclearization is to squeeze the North Koreans and to take advantage of the fact that the North Koreans are in a much weaker position now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: We pressed the White House and the State Department for a response to these latest verbal attacks from North Korea even after the President's conciliatory words toward Kim Jong-un.

They didn't respond to those attacks, but a State Department spokesperson tells CNN tonight that President Trump remains committed to building a lasting peace with Kim's regime, including denuclearization, and that the President remains ready to negotiate with the dictator -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you.

Coming up, a CNN exclusive, inside the Mueller investigation. How the Special Counsel conducted his probe and how one witness drew his scrutiny.

And behind President Trump's latest tirade, is he really worried about impeachment which he now calls a, quote, dirty, filthy, disgusting word.

[17:54:44] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now. Filthy, disgusting word. The President uses that phrase to describe impeachment and to rail against the growing push for it as he tears into Robert Mueller and distorts just about everything Mueller said a day earlier about his investigation. We'll break down the tirade and get to the truth.

[17:59:56] Could have decided. Attorney General William Barr apparently isn't satisfied with what Mueller said either. Tonight, he's disputing the now-former Special Counsel's refusal to determine if Mr. Trump committed a crime.