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Extreme Weather; Interview With Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI); Trump Blasts Mueller; Barr Contradicted Mueller, Says He Could Have Reached A Decision On Whether Trump Obstructed Justice; Hundreds Of Documents Just Released In Jussie Smollett Case; Bernie Sanders: Trump "Must Be Held Accountable, Judiciary Committee Should Begin Impeachment Inquiries"; Millions on East Coast Under Severe Thunderstorm Watch As Historic Flooding Inundates Midwest. Aired on 6-7p ET

Aired May 30, 2019 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: 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.

Inside the investigation. CNN has exclusive new reporting on how Mueller led the probe of the president, revealing one key witness who got his attention more than others.

And Mid-Atlantic warning. After weeks of deadly tornadoes and floods, the danger is now shifting toward the East Coast. We will show you who is on the radar for severe weather tonight.

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 breaking news on new blowback from Robert Mueller's first and possibly only public comments about his investigation.

Tonight, the attorney general, William Barr, is contradicting the now former special counsel. Barr says he believes Mueller could have made a determination on whether President Trump committed a crime by obstructing justice, this as the president is going after Mueller with new ferocity after he refused to exonerate him.

Mr. Trump labeling Mueller as conflicted and a true never-Trumper, slamming members of Mueller's team as some of the -- quote -- "worst human beings on Earth."

The president went a lot further in spewing anger and making brazenly false claims, as he attacked multiple targets outside the White House and on Twitter. I will get reaction from Senate Judiciary Committee member Mazie Hirono. And our correspondents and analysts, they are also standing by.

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

Jim, the president's initial reaction to Mueller yesterday was sort of restrained, but today he let loose.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

An angry President Trump gave already exhausted fact-checkers, quite a workout today, as he opened up a fire hose of falsehoods on special counsel Robert Mueller. That performance came after 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 who worked for Hillary Clinton and some of the worst human beings on Earth, they got nothing. It's pretty amazing.

ACOSTA: 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.

And 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 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 get elected."

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

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.

ACOSTA: 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.

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

ACOSTA: The president also appeared sickened by the 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: Even as Democrats are using that I-word more and more.

REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): 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: The president claimed he had nothing to do with efforts made by the White House Military Office to hide the USS 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.

[18:05:05]

ACOSTA: Former Vice President Joe Biden said McCain's legacy should be honored.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: John McCain was a war hero. He 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: Now, the president teased he will be making a big announcement about 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. But that announcement the president was talking about earlier in the day appears to be a new warning that Mr. Trump may impose new tariffs on Mexico if enforcements are not stepped up at the border.

Wolf, that could potentially threaten the trade deal with Mexico that the president likes to talk about so much -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good point. Very important development. Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you. Now to the breaking news on the attorney general, William Barr,

disputing Robert Mueller's insistence that it would have been wrong for him to make a determination on whether President Trump committed a crime.

I want to bring in our justice reporter, Laura Jarrett, and our chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Laura, Barr seemed to blame Mueller for not making a decision on whether the president obstructed justice. Tell our viewers what he said.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, once again, the attorney general essentially accusing Mueller of falling down on the job, not reaching a decision on the question of obstruction of justice. Listen to his curious answer to CBS earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: He could have reached a conclusion.

The opinion says you can't 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 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.

QUESTION: Well, he seemed to suggest yesterday that there was another venue for this, and that was Congress.

BARR: Well, I'm not sure what he was suggesting. But the Department of Justice doesn't use our powers of investigating crimes as an adjunct to Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: So, a couple of points to keep in mind here.

As Mueller explained yesterday, it's not that he couldn't reach a decision on obstruction of justice. It's that he wouldn't do that because of prudential concerns, because of fairness. As he explained in the report, it's not OK for a prosecutor to unload a whole bunch of derogatory information about someone, but if they're not going to be charged in court and have an opportunity to defend themselves, then that's not legitimate.

And, of course, the longstanding Justice Department guidelines involving not indicting a sitting president for Mueller really constrained his hands. And, more to the point, it's curious for Barr to suggest that Mueller could have done this. If Mueller had actually found the president committed a crime, it's

interesting to see how Barr would have handled that, given that he's so critical of Mueller saying that he couldn't exonerate the president -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's an important point.

Jeffrey, so, what do you think? Who is right on this, Barr or Mueller?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it is an unusual situation.

And if I were Robert Mueller I would say to myself, you know, no good deed goes unpunished, because, you know, he was trying to bend over backward to be fair to the president, to say, as Laura said, that you can't, you know, raise an accusation against someone who has no forum to respond to it.

But where I think Barr is clearly wrong is that the special counsel shouldn't have helped Congress with its investigation. Whether it was Watergate or the Clinton investigation by Ken Starr, special counsels, outside counsels have always provided evidence to Congress that they used in impeachment.

So there is certainly nothing inappropriate about that. And that is where we sit -- we stand now, with information available to Congress and Congress has to decide whether to pursue impeachment.

BLITZER: Laura, you have new inside information about how Mueller actually led that, what, 22-month investigation. What are you learning?

JARRETT: Well, for so long, Mueller has been the face of this investigation, but his role is still so largely cloaked in secrecy, Wolf.

And so we tried to take a peek behind the curtain, speaking with dozens of people who worked with him on the investigation closely, were directly involved in the investigation or interacted with the probe, and what we found is that even for people who were involved in it, he still serves as sort of this mysterious figure in many ways.

And as one person said, there is sort of a mythology that's been created around him. And so our reporting shows that actually in many cases he didn't even participate in witness interviews. He didn't interact at all with the former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.

But one interview he did participate in is that of former White House counsel Don McGahn, Wolf. So it's interesting to note when his hands were involved and how deeply entrenched he was here.

BLITZER: That's an important point.

[18:10:00] Jeffrey, what does it tell you about the importance of that interview with the former White House counsel Don McGahn that Mueller chose to actually attend that session?

TOOBIN: Well, both the fact that he attended and, if you read the Mueller report, the McGahn material is obviously the most important and most incriminating information.

It's also worth pointing out, though, that in the history of special counsels -- and there have now been a lot, whether it's Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski in Watergate, Ken Starr in Iran-Contra, Lawrence Walsh, who I worked for in Iran-Contra, the independent counsel, the special prosecutor generally does not participate in interviews, does not argue in a court and acts more or less like an administrator, like the attorney general.

That seems to be the model that Mueller followed, so it's not unprecedented that he would act this way.

BLITZER: Jeffrey and Laura, I want you to stand by, because I want to dig deeper right now with our correspondents and our analysts.

Jamie Gangel, you have been doing some reporting on this.

The series of falsehoods, lies, whatever you want to call it, from the president this morning before leaving the White House for Colorado, what does that indicate to you?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, what we saw today, 18 minutes of ranting, we can't say it enough. This is not normal. He clearly looked angry.

He -- I think he looks worried about the I-word, about impeachment. And if you go through, go back, it wasn't so long ago that he was saying that Robert Mueller was honorable. Not today. Quite the opposite, over and over again.

I think he is genuinely worried, and today seemed to be spinning out of control. Last week, we saw Nancy Pelosi get under his skin. I think this week we're seeing Robert Mueller get under his skin, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Bianna, the president all but admitted today in a tweet that Russia did interfere in the election.

Among other things, he wrote this on Twitter: "I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected."

Later, when he was meeting with reporters, he tried to walk 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) BLITZER: So what do you think, Bianna? What is it?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he admitted the worst-kept secret in the world, Wolf. Vladimir Putin himself not only said that he had wanted Donald Trump to be president of the United States, but he also praised would-be patriots in Russia, so-called hackers, that he said, I can't help it if patriots here in my country decided to intervene in Internet and hacking in the United States.

So this is something that everyone, including the president's intelligence communities, intelligence chiefs have been saying and showing proof of since day one.

The problem was, the president has never come forward acknowledging it. It's something that Bob Mueller began his statement yesterday addressing and he closed his statement addressing, and it's something that we don't hear from the president on a daily basis, which is what we should be doing.

We should be hearing this president say Russia interfered in the U.S. elections, that it is not something that we can allow and here's what we're doing to prevent it from going forward.

BLITZER: I want to bring in Senator Mazie Hirono to discuss what's going on. She's joining our conversation. Senator Hirono is a Democrat. She serves on both the Judiciary and Armed Services committees.

Senator, thanks so much for joining us.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): Thank you.

BLITZER: You now say it's time to open an impeachment inquiry.

HIRONO: Yes.

BLITZER: So what's your reaction to the president saying today that he can't imagine, in his words, the courts allowing for him to be impeached? What's your reaction to that?

HIRONO: He can't imagine the courts allowing him to be impeached?

BLITZER: That's what he said.

HIRONO: It's not the courts. It's the House of Representatives that begins an impeachment inquiry.

So the president gets things wrong all the time. He's just flailing away. The main thing is, one, he'd like to distract everybody from what's going on regarding him and protecting himself. That is what he does.

BLITZER: The attorney general, William Barr, says Robert Mueller could have made a decision on whether the president is guilty of criminal obstruction, even if he couldn't indict him, according to the Justice Department guidelines. Do you think that's true?

HIRONO: What Barr said was that Mueller had his reasons for not coming to a conclusion on obstruction. He said, I'm not going to argue with those reasons. That's what I heard, which means that those reasons that Mueller had for not weighing in as to whether or not there was obstruction are valid reasons.

Mueller did explain the OLC memo prohibited them, him from either indicting or charging a sitting president and that it would be very unfair to a sitting president to even weigh in with a conclusion because a sitting president would not have a venue, a forum in which to defend himself.

[18:15:13]

So, I think, on the one hand, you see Mueller, who has tremendous credibility, bending over backwards to be fair and objective and following the OLC guidelines, and then you have Barr coming in and, really, I think he did a total disservice to our country when he indicated in the first instance that the OLC memo had very little or nothing to do with Mueller's decision not to bring a charge against Trump...

BLITZER: Yes.

HIRONO: ... for obstruction.

BLITZER: Very different perspective from the attorney general, as opposed to the special counsel.

HIRONO: Yes. Well, because he's acting -- he's acting as attorney general for the president.

BLITZER: Yesterday, we heard directly from Robert Mueller, what, for the first time in nearly two years, but he says he doesn't want to testify publicly before Congress. Should House Democrats issue a subpoena?

HIRONO: I think that they should, first of all, invite him to testify.

And, frankly, when he had his press conference, to watch Mueller focus on the parts of his 400-page report that were really telling about Russian interference and on behalf of Trump -- and they're still doing it, by the way -- and the OLC memo preventing him from charging the president, I think it was really telling.

It's really like watching the movie, as opposed to reading the book. And so I hope the House will invite him. And if they -- and if he chooses not to participate, because now he's a private citizen, I think they should issue a subpoena.

But I'm hopeful that, by invitation, he will come forward, even if he reiterates what's in the Mueller report. But, for example, if the House members asked him, what parts of the discussion in your report that had to do with obstruction would you consider those factors that point to the president doing obstruction, even if he reads those portions, that's a heck of a lot of obstructive behavior.

BLITZER: So what other questions do you think Mueller needs to answer that aren't necessarily in his report?

HIRONO: I would like to have him respond more to his thinking about why he -- you know, to reiterate again what his thinking was about the fairness issue, about the president not having a venue.

And when he said that there was evidence as far as a conspiracy, but not enough to meet a burden of beyond a reasonable doubt, I would like to ask him, well, what are -- you know, why don't you point out some of the factors that and evidence that were there that would lead to a conspiracy, just not to meet a criminal burden of beyond a criminal -- beyond a reasonable doubt?

That would be pretty interesting.

BLITZER: Earlier this morning, the president tweeted this, and I will read it to you.

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

But then he went on camera meeting with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. He clearly reversed himself. Was that tweet his first admission, perhaps inadvertently, that Russia did want to see him win the presidential election?

HIRONO: Well, the thing is that the intelligence community and pretty much everybody else who has listened to what was really going on concludes that the Russians helped Trump.

They certainly were not helping Hillary Clinton. So, you know, Trump once again is the last person to admit that anybody else helped him. As he put it, it was all him, not all the people who voted for him, but it was all his doing.

It's pretty amazing, the lengths that he will go to, to protect himself.

BLITZER: Senator Hirono, thanks so much for joining us.

HIRONO: Thank you.

BLITZER: All right, we have got a lot to discuss.

Our analysts, our correspondents, they are here. We will continue this conversation right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:23:45]

BLITZER: We're following another change of a tune by President Trump on Robert Mueller, the president ranting about the former special counsel and his Russia investigation in a series of tweets.

I want to bring back our correspondents and our analysts.

And, Susan Hennessey, the president, you saw this morning, before leaving the White House, he said Robert Mueller was, in his words, a true never-Trumper, somebody that dislikes Donald Trump. He says he employed 18 Trump haters, including people that worked for Hillary Clinton, and some of the worst human beings on Earth.

That -- those are the words of the president about those individuals who worked for Mueller. And he said that Mueller was totally conflicted.

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right.

And he's also pushing this line that Mueller had a conflict of interest because he, as Trump claims, was begging for the FBI job because he had been brought into the White House to discuss that position the day before he was appointed special counsel.

Of course, there is a 10-year term limit on the FBI director's term. Mueller had actually already served 12 years as FBI director because Obama had gone to Congress to get that additional two-year term.

And so these accusations about the -- about conflicts of interest related to a golf club membership, allegedly, Robert Mueller begging for a job that he was barred by law from receiving from the outset, I think it tells us everything we need to know.

[18:25:02]

And that's the Trump is well aware that the Mueller report is a politically devastating document for him, that he faces a serious -- the serious threat of impeachment right now and that sort of the tale of this is nowhere close to over.

And so, rather than actually engaging with the substance of the report, he's continuing to try to personally attack the credibility of Robert Mueller.

It's really, really telling. That report describes the president of the United States being aware of the campaign of a hostile foreign adversary to interfere in a U.S. election, welcoming that help, describes a campaign of attempts to obstruct justice.

The president and his team aren't even trying really to claim that the contents of the report aren't true. They aren't even engaging with it and sort of trying to convince people that Mueller is lying.

Instead, they're just trying to turn around and attack Mueller and his team.

BLITZER: Because, Sabrina Siddiqui, at one point, the president said that Mueller -- this was just a few weeks ago -- had acted honorably.

So what do you think changed his tune so dramatically? SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the president said

that Robert Mueller acted honorably, in many ways, that was the exception to the rule.

If you look at the totality of how the president has talked about the investigation over the course of the last two years, he has repeatedly disparaged Robert Mueller and the special counsel, seeking to undermine their credibility, dismissing them as angry Democrats.

Robert Mueller, of course, let's remind everyone, is a Republican. And so this is part of that broader campaign to try and convince the court of public opinion that he is actually the victim.

It's also worth noting that when he said Mueller acted honorably, that came after that four-page letter Attorney General William Barr put out, which was very favorable to the president, clearly misleading, now that we have seen the contents of the Mueller report.

So now that the president has -- is aware that the public has seen and learned of at least 10 instances outlined in the report in which he sought to obstruct justice, he is once again going on the offense and trying to dismiss the credibility of the investigators, especially as Democrats are now looking ahead at what to do, whether that's impeachment or whether that's furthering the investigation.

BLITZER: You know, Jamie Gangel, the president was once again asked about the looming threat out there of impeachment. Listen to his response today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Do you sense there is a shift going on among the Democratic leadership, specifically the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi?

GANGEL: You know, I was actually just texting when we were in commercial break with a source very close to Nancy Pelosi, who told me that there is no change in her position.

She still does not think that the time is right for an impeachment inquiry. So she is holding firm. That said, Wolf, we know she has left the door open. And there is this growing chorus.

And if we see a shift in public opinion, or if there is some evidence that comes out in these hearings, I think it is possible that she might change her mind.

That said, watching Donald Trump today said it all. With or without an impeachment inquiry, he was around the bend today. He is worried about it. He did not look like someone who thought that impeachment would energize his base -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Everybody, stick around.

There's a lot more we need to discuss. And we will right after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:30:00]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN THE SITUATION ROOM: We're back with our correspondents and analysts. And, Bianna, let me play for you the Attorney General, William Barr, now today responding to what Mueller said yesterday. Barr telling CBS News Mueller could have reached a final decision on criminal obstruction. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: 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)

BLITZER: So, Bianna, do you think Barr is right?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, this is extremely confusing because you have the Attorney General basically suggesting that it's a binary choice. You either say the President broke the law or you say he didn't. And it doesn't even seem as if that Mueller presented his own reason. He seemed to be presenting the law as he saw it from the Justice Department saying that you can't indict a sitting president, thus far we didn't even pursue that avenue. What we can say is if we thought the President didn't commit a crime, we would have said as much.

So it doesn't even seem like there is a gray area. It seems like there is completely separate views as to how they viewed this investigation. And I'm curious, I'd be really curious to hear what Rod Rosenstein thinks about this because Bill Barr says that he came up with this decision in conclusion alongside Rod Rosenstein. But Rod Rosenstein had been overseeing this investigation from the get-go. Bill Barr came in just a few months prior to its conclusion. I'm curious as to whether or not Rod Rosenstein was always in the same view as Bill Barr is presenting himself to be now.

[18:35:03]

BLITZER: Susan, what do you think?

SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: I mean, one thing. I actually do think that Barr is right. Mueller could have reached a conclusion consistent with the OLC memo. But one thing that is almost crystal clear from the Mueller report is that had Mueller reached that conclusion, he would have accused the President of the United States of a crime. That is the between the lines when he says we would have exonerated him but we did not.

Barr's own defense, his own read of why he doesn't believe that the facts, as presented, constituted obstruction of justice, an extraordinarily weak legal theory on the face. And so to the extent that Barr is now pointing to this choice as a manner to sort of criticize Robert Mueller, the President and his supporters, like Bill Barr, are incredibly lucky that Robert Mueller decided to exercise this degree of restraint in not making that accusation.

BLITZER: But if he would have said --- if Mueller would have said that the President of the United States committed a crime but the OLC, the Office of Legal Counsel, guidance is you can't indict a sitting President of the United States, Mueller himself yesterday said it would have been totally unfair to the President because he couldn't defend himself in a court of law.

HENNESSEY: Right. And we would have seen exactly the reverse criticism of how unfair it was for Mueller to level this charge. That said, Ken Starr, who was operating under the Independent Counsel Law, did accuse the President of committing a crime. And so the idea that the OLC memo means that Mueller could not even reach that conclusion, I don't think that's necessarily clear on its face.

I actually think Robert Mueller could have and, as a matter of opinion, should have actually reached that decision. But that's said, I think it does show to the extent to which the Attorney General would have been playing both -- either side, no matter what Mueller would have done, they would have criticized him for the choice.

BLITZER: What do you think, Sabrina?

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that when you look at Robert Mueller's comments yesterday, he clearly chose to emphasize that while he was bound by this Justice Department protocol, if you want to call it that, he would have exonerated the President, as Susan pointed out, if he could. He said very clearly that if his office had the confidence to say that the President of the United States did not commit a crime, we would have said so. And that's a point that he also, of course, wrote in his report.

So I do think that, you know, we're going to debate Robert Mueller's actions and whether or not he could have been more explicit in his language in the report. But one thing he did make crystal clear is that there is another forum to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing outside of the criminal justice system. So it's very clear that if Robert Mueller did have any intent in the decision that he ultimately made, it was for Congress to take up the report --

BLITZER: But, Susan --

SIDDIQUI: -- and the evidence before it and decide if they feel like there was enough evidence to impeach. BLITZER: -- if Mueller would have gone out and said, yes, the President did commit a crime, would that have violated the Special Counsel provisions, the Special Counsel regulations?

HENNESSEY: No, I don't believe it would have violated the Special Counsel regulations for him to actually reach that conclusion. But keep in mind, in that report,, Robert Mueller says that he lays out a course of conduct where he says this is the law, this is every element of the law, this is what the President did. We believe, in some instances, every single element of the law is met. And we don't believe there's any --

BLITZER: We got Jamie. And, Jamie, what do you think?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, just to add something going back to what Mueller said yesterday, he used the word fairness, in fairness. So he was bending over backwards not to be in that position and then the Attorney General came in and said that's -- we're exonerating him, no crime, very different position.

BLITZER: Indeed.

GOLODRYGA: And let's not forget that that was what Bill Barr and all of this confusion stemmed from that four-page memo, right? We're debating as to whether or not they thought something was legally possible for Bob Mueller now. Remember that all of this began with that four-page interpretation of Mueller's initial report, which clearly doesn't seem to focus on what the report entailed.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stick around. There's more breaking news we're following.

Some surprising new information in the case of the actor, Jussie Smollett. We're combing through hundreds of new police documents that have just been released.

Plus, thunderstorms rattling the East Coast while historic flooding inundates the Midwest. We're following breaking severe weather news. That's ahead as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:40:00]

BLITZER: More breaking news tonight. Chicago police have just released hundreds of documents in the case of Jussie Smollett, the former Empire actor, accused of staging a racist and homophobic attack.

Let's go to our National Correspondent, Ryan Young. He's joining us right now. So what have you found, Ryan?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Wolf, we've been going through this since we got those documents. But let's remind everybody about this. In late January, Jussie Smollett told detectives that apparently he had been attacked by two men who had a noose and apparently poured bleach on him and said racial and homophobic slurs. Well, now, we know after these international headlines and left the city outrage.

We now have a clear picture of what detective efforts have been in this case. In fact, they believe it was an elaborate hoax, of course we knew that. But this document-dump sort of shows that they were talking to different people. They were talking to a slew of people to get all this evidence.

What we see is the bones of this investigation and we learned that more than a dozen officers who were working around the clock. What we kind of figured out though is that at no point does Jussie Smollett ever talk about President Trump. That's one of the things he was actually worried about. He called detectives and said, hey, I never mentioned that.

There were also cameras in the area and none of the cameras picked up the attack. We know that as well. But when detectives arrived and asked him questions, he actually asked them to turn their body cameras off.

[18:45:03] So, you go through all of this and the fact that detectives say, hey, you told us they were white. He says I thought they were white. They did tell him that it was the Osundairo brothers. He even realizes that they were black, because they used to hang out together.

The two brothers who were involved in this case, who gave police all this information actually tell police they supplied him with drugs. They hung out at the club. So, they say they were paid $100 to go buy these supplies to go pull this off.

Wolf, this sort of unwraps the entire case here. What we don't have in these details is why the prosecution decided to drop this case. Now, I'm told from several sources here that if we ever get a picture of some of the video involved in this case we'll have a clearer picture of what Jussie Smollett was like right after the attack.

Apparently, he never dropped his Subway sandwich after the attack. He walks in, has a noose around his neck. These are all questions that detectives have been dealing with for months but still no real details about why this case came to an end -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I know you will stay on top of it. We'll stay on top of it.

YOUNG: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Ryan Young reporting for us, thank you.

There is more breaking news. Millions of people under severe weather watches right now and warnings as thunderstorms and flooding cover large portions of United States.

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[18:50:54] BLITZER: Senator Bernie Sanders is joining the list of Democratic presidential hopefuls weighing in on calls for impeaching President Trump.

Our senior political analyst Mark Preston is joining us live from Atlanta. He's there for tonight's CNN town hall.

Mark, first I want to ask you about Senator Bernie Sanders. He stopped short of calling for President Trump's impeachment. But he does seems to support launching an impeachment inquiry.

MARK PRESTON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, very interesting, Wolf, because it is very similar to what we're hearing from Nancy Pelosi. You wouldn't expect Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders would necessarily have the same strategy about how to get Donald Trump out of office. But they both do at least at this point.

We know Nancy Pelosi has been careful about pursuing impeachment proceedings, because they she thinks that would hurt her and certainly hurt House Democrats at the ballot box in 2020. And now, we see from Bernie Sanders which is interesting because you would think he would be one that would be calling for impeachment right away of Donald Trump like we have heard from others like Elizabeth Warren specifically to try to apiece and appeal to the liberal left.

But he isn't, to your point. He says let us take a slow roll on this and not necessarily go straight to impeachment. It's interesting.

BLITZER: Are we seeing so far among the 20-plus Democratic presidential candidates the beginning of a sort of a get tough posture on the candidates? They're all going after Trump clearly? But what about going after each other.

PRESTON: Yes, I think you're going to start seeing that a little bit more, Wolf. We've seen that in the past couple weeks where we've seen candidates not necessarily criticize people. But try to compare and contrast themselves.

Now, tonight, Michael Bennett who we'll see her in Atlanta, it will be interesting to see hi how he compares and contrasts himself to the rest of field. He is in a minority in the field, in that he is more of centrist candidate, somebody who is trying to carve out that centrist role, similar to Joe Biden, for instance. But it'd be interesting tonight, he will compare himself to the likes of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and others where he doesn't agree with politically.

BLITZER: And we're getting, and we're having, what, three more town halls Sunday night, right?

PRESTON: Right, we certainly do. Representative -- it will be the representative town hall. Representatives Seth Moulton from Massachusetts. We'll also see Tim Ryan from Ohio and Eric Swalwell from California. Back-to-back-to-back on Sunday evening.

BLITZER: There's an important town hall later tonight.

Mark Preston, you are there on the scene for us as you always are. Thanks very much. And please be sure to join our Dana Bash for a CNN presidential town hall with Democratic candidate, Senator Michael Bennet. That's live from the CNN Center in Atlanta. That's later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

We have more breaking news coming up next. Millions of people under severe weather watches and warnings as thunderstorms and flooding cover large portions of the U.S.

Stay with us.

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[18:58:15] BLITZER: Breaking weather news tonight. Millions of people in the eastern part of the United States are under severe thunderstorm watches as millions more face severe flooding in the Midwest.

Our meteorologist Allison Chinchar is monitoring all of this from our severe weather center -- Allison.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right, so what we are dealing with right now is we have a tornado watch and severe thunderstorm watch across portions of Texas. We also have a severe thunderstorm watch for areas of the northeast as well and a brand-new tornado warning in Virginia.

Now, it was just about three hours ago that we actually had a likely tornado cross the area of Ellicott City, Maryland. You can see the tornado in the background, a very defined shape. The unfortunate part about this, it has caused some damage.

This is aerial video that you are looking at. You can see a lot of trees down across Howard County, Maryland, and the threes are all in different directions. And that's really the sign that tells us it was not straight line winds but rather you're seeing that rotation, which means it very much likely was a tornado that went through this particular area here.

The other story we have been covering is the flooding across portions of the central U.S., look at the last 30 days. You have areas that picked up in excess of 20 inches of rain, again places like Oklahoma, Kansas and even portions of Missouri dealing with those high totals. So, it is no surprise what so far that you have so many river gauges that are at or above flood stage.

A quick look at these numbers, again -- well, over 200 of them in those flood stages. Unfortunately, one in particular is that Arkansas River at Van Buren.

Back to you.

BLITZER: All right. Allison, thanks very much. Very disturbing weather information. Allison Chinchar reporting.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. Thanks very much for watching. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @wolfblitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNsitroom.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.

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