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THE SITUATION ROOM
Trump Pays Solemn Tribute to D-Day Heroes but Slams Mueller and Pelosi While on Hallowed Ground; Voicemail from Trump Lawyer to Flynn Lawyer Seen As Attempt to Deter Cooperation with Mueller; Pelosi Tells Dems She Wants to See Trump "In Prison"; Rep. Jim Himes (D-CT), Intelligence Committee, on Push to Impeach Trump. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired June 6, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Thank you so much for watching.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news: caught on tape. After a judge's order, the Justice Department releases the audio of a voicemail left by President Trump's former lawyer to an attorney for Michael Flynn, which the Mueller report suggested was an attempt to dissuade the president's former national security adviser from cooperating with the special counsel. You're about to hear the audio.
Back to frustration: President Trump rises to the occasion, honoring those who fought and died in the D-Day invasion but, at the same American war cemetery in France, he sinks back into frustration, slamming Robert Mueller and Nancy Pelosi.
Lock him up?
Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly has told House Democrats that she doesn't want to see the president impeached but that she does want to see him in prison.
And Americans pause as tensions escalate between the U.S. and Russia, Moscow continues to detain two Americans.
Is Vladimir Putin using them as pawns?
What's his goal?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Breaking news: for the first time, we are hearing evidence in the Russia investigation on a federal judge's orders. Audio has just been released of a voicemail from President Trump's former lawyer to a lawyer for Michael Flynn, seen as an apparent effort to disrupt Flynn's cooperation in the Russia investigation.
That's certain to be one more big frustration for President Trump, who has given way to his grudges today after winning praise for his solemn D-Day anniversary tribute to those who fought in the invasion of Normandy.
But speaking on that very same hallowed ground, the president described former special counsel Robert Mueller as a, quote, "fool."
And he called the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "Nervous Nancy" and "a disaster."
Pelosi this week reportedly told House Democrats she doesn't want to see the president impeached, adding -- and I'm quoting now -- "I want to see him in prison."
House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, who told me yesterday here in THE SITUATION ROOM that it may come down to impeachment, is quoted by a source as saying he'll subpoena Mueller within weeks. I'll speak with Congressman Jim Himes on the Intelligence Committee.
And our correspondents and analysts will have full coverage of the day's top stories.
First, let's get to the breaking news. Our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is with us.
Evan, first of all, take us through what has just been released.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the first time that we're seeing some of the underlying evidence from the nearly two- year Russia investigation. And at the orders of a judge, as you mentioned, this is a voicemail that's been released by the Justice Department. It's John Dowd, one of the president's attorneys back in November of 2017, right after Michael Flynn has decided to start cooperating with the government. And he has some concerns that he wants to raise. Let's listen to this tape of the -- of the voicemail.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN DOWD, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: Hey, Rob, this is John again. Maybe I'm sympathetic, I understand your situation but let me see if I can't state it in starker terms. If you have -- and it wouldn't surprise me if you've gone on to make a deal with and work with the government. I understand that you can't join the joint defense. So that's one thing.
If, on the other hand, we have -- there's information that implicates the president, then we've got a national security issue or maybe a national security issue, I don't know, some issue. We got to -- we got to deal with not only for the president but for the country. So you know, then, you know, we need some kind of heads-up just for the sake of protecting all our interests, if we can, without you having to give up any confidential information.
So -- and if it's the former, then, you know, remember what we've always said about the president and his feelings toward Flynn and that still remains but -- well, in any event, let me know and I appreciate your listening and taking the time. Thanks, pal.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
PEREZ: And, Wolf, again we heard -- we read some of the comments, obviously, but it's a lot different to hear this audio. And it's a bit rambling --
PEREZ: -- but it does seem to portray that John Dowd was -- had some concerns, had some worries about the idea that Michael Flynn would be cooperating with the special counsel. The special counsel certainly interpreted it that way and, in the report, the special counsel said that they interpreted it to mean that they were trying to essentially interfere with Michael Flynn's cooperation with this investigation.
We do have a comment, a statement from John Dowd, when the -- this was initially -- the transcript was initially released and he said, quote, "This is clearly a baseless political document designed to smear and damage the reputation of counsel and innocent people."
BLITZER: Do you think actually hearing the audio of the voicemail will make much of a difference as opposed to having read the transcript of what this voicemail said?
PEREZ: I think it does. Again, it's one of the differences between seeing the Mueller report and hearing from either Mueller or people who were involved in putting it together. I think the American public benefits from hearing some of this evidence, seeing people who were involved in putting it together describe what it was that they were investigating, certainly what their impressions were.
And I think it makes a difference to hear the audio as opposed to just seeing a transcript. It always does. It just makes a difference for people to understand what the context was and perhaps it may make it clearer what exactly was being said in this
BLITZER: Democrats clearly want to get a lot more of this kind of evidence, actual audio or video, as they pursue their investigation.
PEREZ: Right. There's also the audio of Michael Flynn's discussion with the former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. I think that would be an interesting thing for us to hear. Again, a lot has been made about this and certainly General Flynn's and the president's supporters would say that it's no big deal. But I think hearing it might give us a different impression.
BLITZER: We also heard today that Michael Flynn, who is awaiting sentencing, has decided to go ahead and fire his lawyers, seek new counsel, maybe already have new counsel. That's pretty unusual at this late moment.
PEREZ: Right. It's a very unusual move but, I have to tell you, Wolf, I think we kind of expected this to have happened a little earlier. If you remember, a few months ago, he was -- had a routine hearing before Judge Emmitt Sullivan. And it sort of went off the rails in part because of a filing made by the legal team that was representing General Flynn.
And in that filing, they suggested that he was railroaded, that the FBI tricked him into lying, that the crimes were not as serious as the government had made it seem. And so that really angered the government -- the judge and really put Flynn in peril of having to spend time in prison, even though the special counsel is not recommending any prison time.
So I think this is perhaps a strategy by Flynn to sort of maybe go to the judge and say, look, my lawyer screwed up there. You've got to give me another chance. And perhaps he can fix this situation and avoid going to prison. That's his goal here, not going to prison.
BLITZER: Evan Perez, thank you very much, good reporting.
Our senior White House correspondent Pamela Brown is traveling with the president. She's in Ireland right now.
Pamela, the release of this tape comes just as the president is finishing up his trip to the U.K., France, Ireland.
Has there been any reaction so far from the White House?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, no reaction yet, Wolf, on that front but even as President Trump faces growing pressure back at home, he stuck to the script today in Normandy.
He put divisive rhetoric to the side and gave a unifying speech to a crowd of world leaders and surviving veterans, who stormed the beaches 75 years ago today.
TRUMP: The streets of --
BROWN (voice-over): After delivering a soaring speech about the importance of foreign alliances abroad at the 75th anniversary of D- Day this morning...
TRUMP: -- our bond is unbreakable.
BROWN (voice-over): -- tonight the president is facing fractured alliances and old frustrations back home. During an interview with FOX News set to air later tonight and with the backdrop of an American cemetery behind him, the president reverted to his criticism of the Russia investigation and special counsel Robert Mueller.
TRUMP: He made such a fool out of himself the last time because what people don't report is the letter he had to do to straighten out his testimony, because his testimony was wrong.
BROWN (voice-over): While also directing insults towards the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. TRUMP: Nancy Pelosi, I call her Nervous Nancy. Nancy Pelosi doesn't talk about it. Nancy Pelosi is a disaster, OK?
She's a disaster. And let her do what she wants.
You know what?
I think they're in big trouble.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: I don't talk about the president when we're out of the country. That's my principle.
BROWN (voice-over): But before she arrived in France, Pelosi made a --
BROWN (voice-over): -- stunning remark to her Democratic colleagues.
"I don't want to see him impeached. I want to see him in prison."
That, according to multiple Democratic sources who spoke with "Politico." The statement coming amid questions on whether Pelosi and House Judiciary chairman Jerry Nadler are on the same page when it comes to launching an impeachment inquiry against Trump.
BLITZER: Are you on the same page with the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, when it comes to impeachment?
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: As I said, we are launching an inquiry now and whether we'll launch an impeachment inquiry, it may come to that.
BROWN (voice-over): Also looming back home, intense negotiations with Mexico's foreign minister and whether President Trump will follow through on his threat to slap a 5 percent tariff on Mexico imports, set to go into effect Monday.
TRUMP: Mexico was in yesterday. They're coming back this morning in Washington. They'll be meeting at the White House. I think a lot of progress was made yesterday but we have to make a lot of progress. They have to step up and they have to step up to the plate. And perhaps they will. We're going to see. They can solve the problem.
MARCELO EBRARD, MEXICAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We have some advances. And we are going to return later to continue discussing.
BROWN (voice-over): Tonight Mr. Trump is back at his golf resort in Ireland, after managing to stay on message during his D-Day speech, despite the pressing issues back home.
TRUMP: To the men who sit behind me and to the boys who rest in the field before me, your example will never, ever grow old.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: And here in Ireland, we are told that President Trump has been getting updates on the meetings happening in Washington over the Mexico tariffs. And he's been weighing in from here.
But press secretary Sarah Sanders just released a statement, Wolf, saying that the president has not changed his mind, that the tariffs are still set to go into effect in Mexico on Monday. And, Wolf, the president would have to sign an executive order by tomorrow in order for those tariffs to be averted -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens. Pamela Brown in Ireland for us, traveling with the president.
Now to Capitol Hill here in Washington. A source tells CNN that the House Judiciary Committee chairman Jerry Nadler has said he will subpoena former special counsel Robert Mueller within weeks. Let's go to our congressional correspondent Sunlen Serfaty.
Sunlen, Nadler's subpoena threat comes one day after he told me here in THE SITUATION ROOM he hoped he didn't have to resort to that kind of subpoena.
What are you learning about the Democratic strategy right now to get Mueller to testify?
SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, negotiations, Wolf, are still going on between the House Judiciary Committee and Robert Mueller over the terms of a potential testimony up here on Capitol Hill.
But now Chairman Nadler here, clearly laying out more of a deadline, sources telling CNN that Nadler this week that if they cannot reach an agreement soon, then he'll issue a subpoena within weeks.
And Nadler has been very clear. He's been very vocal about saying that, one way or another, he thinks Robert Mueller will be up here on Capitol Hill testifying. But he seems, over the last days and weeks, to try to be trying to give Robert Mueller some room. Hopeful they can figure it out. Hopeful it would not come to the point of having to issue a formal subpoena.
But now they are also being clear if he does have to issue a subpoena, that something that he would do, here's what Nadler told you last night on your show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Why are you so confident that the former special counsel Robert Mueller will appear in public before your committee without a formal subpoena?
NADLER: Well, I didn't say without a formal subpoena. Hopefully it won't come to that. But it may.
BLITZER: Are you confident he will appear one way or another with a subpoena or without a subpoena? NADLER: Oh, sure, sure. He's an honest, honorable person, unlike the White House, which is defying congressional subpoenas. There is no legal excuse for defying these subpoenas. And I can't imagine that Mr. Mueller would defy the law. He's an honorable person.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SERFATY: And I asked Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about this yesterday when she was up here on Capitol Hill, saying, is it time now to just formally subpoena Robert Mueller?
And she says that she trusts the committee's strategy on this one. But certainly she said that, if a subpoena comes, she hopes it would be friendly and that Mueller would actually show up and come -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's interesting, Sunlen, because the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reportedly said she wants to see the president of the United States behind bars, despite not wanting to impeach him.
What's the latest on that front?
SERFATY: That was such a significant and rather stunning statement coming from the Speaker of the House, Wolf. It came and it was first reported by "Politico." It came in a closed door private meeting that Pelosi had on Tuesday with four chairs of her committee. And it comes at --
SERFATY: -- such a critical time for her as a Speaker. She is, as we've been discussing over the last days and weeks, been facing increasing pressure from members of her own party. Now 59 Democrats within the House have called for her to formally open an impeachment inquiry.
And she's been working hard behind the scenes and, really, in front of the TV cameras, expressing her strategy saying -- trying essentially to keep that rebellion from boiling over, focus on investigations, being clear she doesn't want to go down the path of impeachment too soon.
So certainly this sets up potentially a huge week next week. The House is not in session today or tomorrow. They'll be back next week. They'll have contempt votes likely on Tuesday for the attorney general and former White House counsel Don McGahn. So certainly a big week with a lot hanging over her head.
BLITZER: Absolutely right. Sunlen Serfaty, up on Capitol Hill, thank you.
Joining us now, Democratic congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He's a member of the Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. JIM HIMES (D-CT), MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good evening, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's begin with this newly released voicemail from the former Trump attorney, John Dowd to an attorney for the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Is this the first time you've actually heard this recording?
HIMES: First time I've heard the recording. Of course, the transcript has been out there for a little while. And this is just of a piece with what we know to be true about the president and his lawyers, which is they were doing everything they could to keep people from breaking and supporting the government's case.
We saw it -- everybody saw it. You didn't need to have access to classified information to see that the president said that Paul Manafort was standing strong and was admiring him on Twitter; whereas Michael Cohen, who was cooperating, was a weak man.
So this is all part of a major effort, probably an illegal effort, one that I think does qualify for obstruction of justice that the president and his people did, to try to stop the investigation as a whole and try to stop people from cooperating with it.
BLITZER: Does it make much of a difference from your perspective that we're now actually hearing the audio of this voicemail as opposed to simply reading the transcript?
HIMES: Well, it doesn't make a great deal of difference from my perspective. You know, I -- we know the story here; obviously, hearing somebody actually say it, that will sort of, I think, enter public consciousness in a more intense way than reading words on a paper will.
But look, the larger story here is that there was a massive effort that started with the president himself, right down through his lawyers to encourage everybody who had been questioned by Mueller to not cooperate.
And I think there is probably even more information down the road related to those efforts. Michael Cohen came before my committee and talked about some of the editing of his statement. And Michael Cohen, obviously, not the very most trustable of witnesses.
But, nonetheless, it paints the picture of just a unified effort on the part of the White House and the president to keep people from cooperating with the investigation, if they couldn't bring it to a close.
BLITZER: The Speaker, as you now know -- and Nancy Pelosi has told some of her fellow Democrats in the House this week, that she would rather see President Trump in prison instead of impeached.
Do you want to see President Trump in prison?
HIMES: Wolf, look, you know, probably 30 percent to 40 percent of the American public wants to see this president in prison. I think what Nancy Pelosi is saying, first of all, I think she's channeling the emotions of a lot of people who are very emotional, who look at the behavior of this president, the constant lying, the use of tariffs against our best allies and biggest trading partners, you know, the attacks on the media, the attacks on judges and just say this is not who we are.
Now what Nancy Pelosi as the leader of the Democrats needs to do is that she needs to manage and think a little bit longer term than just those who were saying impeachment proceedings should begin now.
I think she's sort of understands that Jerry Nadler and the rest of the committee chairmen are doing the investigations. They are being stonewalled with the White House. If all of a sudden, Nancy Pelosi says, now we're doing impeachment, it's not like all of a sudden the White House is going to cooperate.
So I think she's laying the groundwork, winning in court, as you know that we did two weeks ago, with two judges saying you have got to comply with congressional subpoenas, getting testimony out there, maybe Bob Mueller's testimony, so that this is a careful and deliberate and not an emotionally driven effort.
BLITZER: Let me press you, Congressman.
Do you want to see the president of the United States in jail?
HIMES: More than anything else, Wolf, I don't -- this isn't about my feelings or about retribution. The lizard brain that I have says I hope bad things happen to this man because he has been so destructive to our republic, to the concept of democracy, to the concept that, internationally, we are a light unto the nations.
So yes, I have my emotional reactions but, look, we're a nation that is of a rule of -- we are a nation of laws. So what I really hope -- and this is me personally speaking -- what I really hope is that if impeachment is not a mechanism of accountability -- and I will tell you flat out that I can't imagine anything happening, anything at all happening that would cause the Senate to convict and, therefore, remove this president -- so impeachment stops in the House, in my opinion, my real hope is, that in 2020, the American voters look into their hearts, think about the generation that we've been celebrating today, who, as young men, decided that they would give their lives for this country.
Think about the generation that rebuilt Europe, that paid for it that didn't live by the notion of America first or me first and say, hey, this is not who we are. We're going to elect a different president.
That, to me, that is how this country redeems itself. Whether one nasty individual, you know, spends his years in jail is a lot less important to me than the redemption of the values that animate this country.
BLITZER: I ask the question, Congressman, not only because of what Nancy Pelosi told her fellow Democrats in the House about preferring to see him in prison rather than being impeached -- because Democrats have heavily criticized President Trump for himself talking about jailing his own political opponents.
He's raised the possibility of their committing treason. Former senior officials in the Justice Department, the intelligence community, the FBI. So what she has just said and what you're now saying, is that any different when you're suggesting maybe the president belongs in jail?
HIMES: It is. When the president of the United States, the leader of the country says something, it is different than when even a member of Congress says something. The president commands the most powerful apparatus in human history. That's the executive branch of the government with the military, with the FBI, et cetera.
He commands the most powerful institution that human beings have ever seen. So, yes, what the president -- and by the way, he speaks for the country. I don't speak for the country. If I'm lucky, I speak for just more than half of my constituents.
But the president speaks for the country. So of course it matters much more. And look, I'm a big believer in civil language, which is, you know, why I am setting aside my personal feelings about whether the president should be in prison or not. I'm a big believer in civil conversation. I think we owe it to our country to be civil and thoughtful about the way we talk about politics.
But, Wolf, of course, when the president of the United States, who speaks for every American, who speaks for this 240-year-old experiment in democracy, when he speaks, it is very different than when anybody else in this country speaks.
BLITZER: Well, I will point out the Speaker of the House is second in the line to the presidency so she's got an enormous amount of responsibility as well.
Let me get your reaction to what congressman Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said here last night in THE SITUATION ROOM. He wouldn't say specifically whether he would open an impeachment inquiry without Speaker Pelosi's blessing.
So as far as you're concerned, are you on the same page as Nancy Pelosi right now in preferring to defer any formal impeachment procedure?
HIMES: I am on the same page. I think it is very unlikely, if not impossible, that any committee chair would do something independently of the Speaker. One of the wonderful things about the Democratic majority is that while we have as many opinions as the Democratic Party has always had, we are acting as a team right now.
And I will tell you that we are universally -- the president's comments not withstanding, we are universally standing in awe of Nancy Pelosi's leadership ability here. You know, I've said this before. Nancy Pelosi is already an historic figure as the first woman Speaker of the House in American history.
She has her eye right now not on running for president, not on being governor of the state of California. She has her eye on one thing and one thing only, which is what is right for this country and what her role -- because history is pointing at her -- what her role is in making sure the Congress of the United States does what's right for the country.
And that may mean and I think it does mean that, right now, you take care and you act with some prudence when people are very emotional, as they have every right to be about the behavior of this president, but you take the long view as Nancy Pelosi is doing right now. That doesn't mean she's not going to be in favor of impeachment --
HIMES: -- four weeks from now, three months from now, four months from now. Today she's being prudent and careful and keeping her eye on the big picture.
BLITZER: Congressman Jim Himes, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.
HIMES: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, we'll have more on the breaking news. The audio that's now been released of a voicemail from President Trump's former lawyer to a lawyer for Michael Flynn.
Was it an attempt to try to dissuade Flynn from cooperating with the special counsel?
[17:30:25] WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news, we're now actually able to hear some of the audio, the evidence reviewed by the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, after a federal judge's order.
The Justice Department has just released the recording of a voice mail from one of the President's attorneys to the lawyer for the former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Flynn's attorneys interpreted it as a possible attempt to try to deter Flynn from cooperating with the Mueller investigation.
I want to discuss this and more with our political and legal experts.
And, Joey Jackson, let me play the audio of this voice mail. Listen closely to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN DOWD, PERSONAL ATTORNEY OF DONALD TRUMP (via telephone): I understand your situation, but let me see if I can't state it in starker terms. If you have -- and it wouldn't surprise me if you've gone on to make a
deal with and work with the government. We need some kind of heads-up just for the sake of protecting all -- all interests, if we can, without you having to give up any confidential information.
Remember what we've always said about the President and his feelings toward Flynn and that still remains.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, Joey, that was a portion of the voice mail. Do you think this represents potentially solid evidence of obstruction?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: There's no question in my mind, Wolf, that it does for the following reasons. And, you know, it appears to me, if I had to have takeaways from that tape right there, these would -- what they would be.
Number one, it appears as though the President is unnerved -- and, certainly, although his attorney is speaking in a calm voice, that he's unnerved as well -- about the prospect of some cooperation having taken place, which would implicate the President.
Number two, based upon the cooperation that's implicating the President, they're fishing to confirm whether or not that cooperation exists.
Number three, he's offering a pardon. You know the feelings of the President and as a result of these feelings of the President, they still stand.
And so call it what you will, spin it how you will, what is said is clear. And to me, that is evidence of obstruction.
And last point, Wolf, and that's this. Whenever you're looking at obstruction or any evidence, you can't look at it in isolation. Everything is a data point.
You have to look at this aspect of the President's conduct, his attorney on his behalf, and you have to look at every other aspect of his conduct as prosecutors do when they build a case.
So if you want to build a case for obstruction and you look at this piece, matched with the other 11 items that Mueller said exist, boy, do you have it.
BLITZER: You know, Jackie, we've had the transcript of this voice mail since last month, but hearing it clearly makes a difference.
JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: I mean, clearly, that it's always better that the public hears, see, have more information in order to back up what the Mueller report was based on.
That said, I don't know that this changes minds. And it certainly doesn't change the Mueller report itself, but more information is always good. BLITZER: Let me get Ron Brownstein to weigh in. What do you think,
RON BROWNSTEIN, SENIOR EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Well, I think it just underscores the potential impact of televised hearings on the entire Mueller report.
Because despite the Special Counsel Mueller's kind of quaint notion that all Americans are going to read through a 400-page report that is written with a lot of double negatives and, you know, very closely considered legal language, the fact is, is that hearing and seeing, as Jackie and Joey have both said, is very powerful.
And this is just only one of many examples of how bringing the Mueller report to life, I think, does represent a kind of a clear and present danger to the President.
BLITZER: And also it underscores why the Democrats want to hear from Robert Mueller, who was himself --
BLITZER: Even if he only comes back to Congress and reads from his report, to hear him say all of this would be very significant.
CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Yes. As Ron was talking, I was thinking to myself, think of what Robert Mueller did in the nine minutes at the end of last month where he talked.
He didn't really say any words, if you just read a transcript, that weren't contained in the Mueller report. But why does it matter that you have audio and visual? Because you can tell emphasis.
CILLIZZA: You can tell -- the same reason that you don't play poker remotely, or if you do, you're probably a bad gambler. Because you need to see everyone around you, how they react. What's their intonation?
You come out of that Mueller nine minutes saying he wanted to do this to make clear that he had no option to charge Donald Trump as -- in his reading of the law.
[17:35:04] And he wanted to make clear that Donald Trump was not exonerated. And if he had been exonerated -- if he had been able to say Donald Trump was exonerated, he would have. So there's a difference, right?
It's a -- visual and audio are powerful ways in which we communicate, and you can get more from that than just words on a page.
KUCINICH: Right. And it's part of the reason why the President doesn't -- to your point, doesn't want his former advisers and his former staff testifying in front of Congress.
CILLIZZA: Yes. Yes.
KUCINICH: It has everything to do -- not necessarily what they might say because they might not say anything new, but it's that visual. It's that, you know, in front of the cameras that the President is very attuned to.
BLITZER: Joey --
CILLIZZA: And one last thing.
BLITZER: Yes, go ahead.
CILLIZZA: Just quickly, Wolf. One last thing to remember, we're not talking necessarily here in terms of the legal case right now, right? Justice Department says he can't be charged while he's a sitting president.
What we're talking about, and what Jackie's point is so right on, is we're talking about the swaying of public opinion vis-a-vis impeachment, right? And the way in which that happens is not being like, did you read page 252 of the Mueller report? It's having --
KUCINICH: Great page.
CILLIZZA: Right, it was a good page. It's having Robert Mueller testify or, you know --
BLITZER: Let me get --
CILLIZZA: -- any of these people testify.
BLITZER: Let me get Joey, quickly, to weigh in. Because at the very end of that voice mail, we hear John Dowd say, remember what we've always said about the President and his feelings towards Flynn, which to some suggests maybe he's laying out the possibility, if Flynn doesn't cooperate, there could be a presidential pardon.
JACKSON: Bingo, and that's absolutely the point. The point is, is that when you're speaking, sometimes you speak in language which you and I know what it's about, Wolf, because we've talked about this before, but we want to disguise it in a certain way.
And so I'm not attempting to be nefarious. I'm not attempting to spout conspiracy theories. I'm simply analyzing what we hear. And what we hear is someone saying you'll get a pardon if you look out for me.
BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. There's a lot more we're following right now. Much more on the breaking news right after this.
[17:41:31] BLITZER: We're back with our political and legal experts.
Chris Cillizza, what do you make of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, telling some of her fellow Democrats in the House that she really doesn't want to see the President of the United States impeached, she wants to see him in prison?
CILLIZZA: Joey mentioned in the last segment, context as it relates to obstruction and Donald Trump. Context matters here, too, right?
Why is Nancy Pelosi having this meeting? At least one reason is to try to continue to hold back the forces, including some, you know, at the committee chairman level, who wants impeachment proceedings to begin or the start of it, you know, an impeach inquiry to be opened.
And so what's one way to do that without outside events? Sound a really strong rhetorical point like, you know, hey, guys, I'm with you. I want to see more than impeachment. I want to see imprisonment.
I think that's what she's doing here. And I think she knows what she's doing here because she does not -- she has said many times publicly, Donald Trump wants us to impeach him. It makes him a victim.
The Senate -- Jim Himes said this to you, Wolf. The Senate is not going to -- the Republican-controlled Senate, not going to convict Donald Trump. Therefore, you give him the issue without getting anything out of it.
KUCINICH: And what she is -- what she's leaning against is members saying, but this is our constitutional duty.
KUCINICH: Whether or not the end result is going to be what we want --
CILLIZZA: It doesn't matter, right.
KUCINICH: -- this is still something that we should do. And that's what she's beating back against. And it's tough because it's getting louder.
And the more that -- that, you know, you give credence to the fact that the President may have committed crimes, that's -- that might be counterproductive with some of these members who feel passionately about it.
CILLIZZA: And look at the -- look at --
BROWNSTEIN: Yes, yes.
CILLIZZA: Just look at Jerry Nadler's response to you yesterday, Wolf, and that tells you everything you need to know. You know, are you and Nancy Pelosi on the same page with impeachment? We're working it out. I mean, you know, you get that -- they are having a break.
BLITZER: Ron, go ahead.
BROWNSTEIN: Yes. Yes, I was going to say, I mean -- and, look, she's managing two tracks. We don't talk about it much, but they passed the Dream Act this week. They've now passed six of the nine legislative priorities they laid out at the beginning of the year.
And they've had a total of two dissenting votes from Democrats on all six combined, which is unimaginable in other Democratic majorities. I mean, think about three dozen Democrats who voted against the Affordable Care Act.
So on the legislative side, they are actually kind of systematically implementing the agenda they ran on. And putting the ball in the court of Mitch McConnell who, so far, has gotten away with completely ignoring all of the things that are being passed.
On the other side, she's trying to manage -- as Chris said, she's trying to manage this demand for impeachment, which is still pretty much confined to Democrats from safer districts. You don't have a lot of Democrats from swing districts or Trump districts who are out banging the gong for that.
You know, I wrote today I think they are overlearning the lessons of Bill Clinton in 1998. The fact is that, yes, Republicans lost House seats after impeaching Clinton in '98 when the country didn't support it.
But they lost five House seats and they maintained control of the House. And two years later, in the presidential race, the arguments that were raised in impeachment were an important part of George W. Bush's winning presidential campaign.
She may have more leeway than she thinks. But for now, she is really keeping a kind of a lid on it, I think, largely out of deference to those 31 House Democrats in districts that voted for Trump in 2016.
BLITZER: Joey, you're the legal expert. When Nancy Pelosi says she wants to see the president of the United States imprisoned rather than impeached, is that just rhetoric? Is that at all realistic?
JACKSON: You know, I think it could be realistic. And I think the easiest way, from a legal perspective, if I was advising, to impeach the president is to defeat him in 2020.
[17:45:01] And here's what I mean. I think impeachment would be an exercise in futility. Why? Because, ultimately, he will not be removed or otherwise convicted, right, as Chris Cillizza says, by the Senate. It's not going to happen. They don't have the votes.
In the event, however, that you wait and you defeat the president and he's prosecuted, which he can be as a citizen out of office, there's an instance where he's not impeached but he ends up in jail.
If we're going to subscribe to the notion that no person is above the law and that applies to the president, people are going to have to ask themselves very seriously, and politicians alike, do we want to set the president of having a -- precedent of having a president in jail? Because that's exactly where he could be should he be prosecuted once he leaves and if he is defeated.
BLITZER: You know --
BROWNSTEIN: And the fact --
BLITZER: Go ahead, Ron.
BROWNSTEIN: I was going to say, real quick, the fact is that he even -- he is already, in essence, an unindicted co-conspirator in --
CILLIZZA: Yes, that's right.
BROWNSTEIN: -- you know, in the case that has Michael Cohen in jail, and, you know, that is hanging out there in 2021.
But it is also worth noting that, again, if you look back at the full frame of 1998 and 2000, even though Bill Clinton was not removed from office by the -- by the Democratic -- but the Republican-controlled Senate, the issues that were raised in impeachment were an important part of the next presidential campaign.
When George Bush ran on restoring honor and dignity to the Oval Office, no one had any confusion about what he was -- what he was talking about.
BLITZER: All right.
CILLIZZA: Just to add to Ron's point very quickly. Newt Gingrich is the problem of why we remember '98 the way we did. Newt Gingrich, a week before the '98 election, was saying, we're going to win 30 seats, 35 seats on impeachment.
If Newt Gingrich had said nothing, then Ron's right, we would see it back as sort of a wash election as opposed to this big rejection of impeachment.
BLITZER: Newt Gingrich, the Speaker of the House. All right, guys, stick around. There's more news we're following, including Vladimir Putin using two detained Americans as pawns. Is he using them as pawns in a bigger game to increase his power?
[17:51:27] BLITZER: While President Trump and European leaders gathered in France to commemorate D-Day, Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, stayed home to host a splashy forum to encourage business investment and boost his struggling economy.
The United States, mostly, is boycotting Putin's forum largely because the Russians are detaining a pair of Americans.
Let's go to our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen. He's joining us live from Moscow right now.
Fred, tell us more. Are these Americans simply pawns in a larger game between the U.S. and Russia?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's a big question, Wolf. And the Russians are continuing to say that there is nothing political behind these detentions, but, of course, the U.S. sees that very differently.
They're very angry about the fact that these Americans are still being detained. It's very -- weighing very heavily on the economic forum here in Saint Petersburg. Here's what we are learning.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Tonight, Vladimir Putin's favorite economic forum almost completely without American participation after Russia placed American Michael Calvey, one of the biggest foreign investors, first in jail and then under house arrest.
Calvey's detention another factor escalating tensions between the U.S. and Moscow even though the Kremlin spokesman claimed the case is not political.
DMITRY PESKOV, PRESS SECRETARY OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION (through translator): We are saying that we would prefer Michael Calvey to attend the Saint Petersburg economic forum among other investors. And we would, of course, regret that he has problems with the law.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): While President Trump continues to seek better relations with Vladimir Putin, the U.S. remains at odds with Russia on a wide range of topics, hitting Moscow with a flurry of sanctions prompting a rare personal jab from Putin.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION (through translator): Despite the fact that President Trump has broken all records in imposing sanctions on Russia, nevertheless, with him in the office, trade between the United States and Russia has increased by $5 billion.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Americans detained in Moscow remain a major issue. Another American citizen, security expert Paul Whelan, has been in custody for months, charged with espionage. Whelan recently issuing a call for help.
PAUL WHELAN, AMERICAN HELD IN RUSSIA: I want to tell the world I'm a victim of political kidnap and ransom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what is going very well (ph)?
WHELAN: There is, obviously, no credibility to this situation. This is retaliation for sanctions. There is absolutely no legitimacy.
I have been threatened. My personal safety has been threatened. There are abuses and harassment that I'm constantly subjected to.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): While U.S. embassy officials have been able to visit Paul Whelan, they say their access has been inadequate and vow to protest his treatment.
MICHAEL YODER, MINISTER COUNSELOR FOR CONSULAR AFFAIRS, U.S. EMBASSY MOSCOW: He has told us before that feels that he is under psychological pressure to confess. And in this case, we're now hearing that he feels that he is under physical threat, as well, to confess. And I guarantee you, we will protest this fact with the Russian government.
PLEITGEN (voice-over): Paul Whelan's pre-trial attention will go on at least several more months. As for Michael Calvey, Moscow has indicated he might be released from house arrest but only to attend the economic forum in Saint Petersburg for a day.
PLEITGEN: And, Wolf, the Russians also trying to throw this right back at America. Moscow is saying that they believe that the Americans are trying to dissuade companies from taking part in the forum and investing here in Russia.
The Russians, for their part, are saying, look, if the Americans don't want to invest, they'll find other partners. The one country they're really making a push for right now, Wolf, is the Chinese. Wolf?
[17:55:00] BLITZER: Very interesting. Fred Pleitgen, important report, thanks very much. Fred's in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Coming up, there is breaking news. We have exclusive new details about the fight over impeachment. A source says the Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerry Nadler, wants to launch an impeachment inquiry but is reluctant to cross the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, but going public.
[18:00:02] BLITZER: Happening now, breaking news. Private impeachment push.