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THE SITUATION ROOM
First Trump Comments after Mueller Testimony; Mueller: Trump Was Not Exonerated, Russia's Election Attack Was No Hoax and Investigation Was No Witch Hunt; Interview with Rep. Mike Quigley (D- IL), Intelligence Committee, on Mueller Testimony; Democratic Leaders to Hold News Conference; Interview with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY); Democratic Leaders Speak Out After Mueller's Testimony. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 24, 2019 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- day, their party is in shambles right now. They've got The Squad leading their party. They are a mess. Where even you take a look at scribe and so many of the people that were the most outspoken and they say this was a devastating day for the Democrats and you know it, John, and everybody else knows it.
This was a devastating day for the Democrats.
TRUMP: A very dumb and very unfair question. Because if you look at his correction, he took that totally out of play. He made his decision based on the facts, not based on some rule. So you shouldn't even ask that question because you know it is a phony.
TRUMP: Go ahead.
TRUMP: The Democrats had nothing. And now they have less than nothing. And I think they're going to lose the 2020 election very big, including congressional seats because of the path that they chose. Now who knows where it goes.
From what I hear, they're giving up. But what I say, I know them too well. They'll never give up. They'll go back into the room and try to figure something out. This whole thing has been honestly -- it has been collusion. It has been collusion with the media, it has been collusion with other countries, this has been a disaster for the Democrats.
And I think we're going to win bigger than ever. Now I'm -- I'm going to West Virginia, one of the great states, a state that is doing -- if you look that percentage up, I think it is number one or number two in the country and nobody would have believed that. West Virginia is doing great. So I'm going to West Virginia.
We did have a big case today. We won the asylum case in Washington, which, frankly, you should be asking about that because that is the real deal. I can't believe how nice you are today. Go ahead, give me a question.
QUESTION: My question, Mr. President, is that you know (INAUDIBLE).
TRUMP: No, because we did nothing wrong. The answer is very simple. Nothing was done wrong. This is all a big hoax. And if you look at it today, nothing was done wrong. Now I believe what you're going to find, you're going to find a lot of things that were done very wrong.
But that is going on now. That is something you haven't been writing about and that has to do with the other sides. That has to do with a thing called investigating the investigators. Let's see what happens. That is very interesting.
Do you think Robert Mueller did a good job -- where are you at?
TRUMP: Look, I think Robert Mueller did a horrible job, both today and with respect to the investigation. But in all fairness to Robert Mueller, he had nothing to work with. You could be a builder but if they don't give you the right materials you won't build a very good building. Robert Mueller had no material, he had nothing to work with.
So obviously he did very poorly today. I don't think there is anybody even among the fakers, I don't think there is anybody that would say he did well. I looked at your people, they're saying it was devastating for the Democrats and even -- I will tell you, the two most nauseous and nauseating networks whose ratings have both gone way down, even they said this is a really bad day for the Democrats.
So Robert Mueller did a poor job. But in all fairness to him, he had nothing to work with.
QUESTION: Do you regret not talking to Mueller now that you've seen --
TRUMP: Look, I saw what he did to people, how he ruined people's lives because he didn't remember things and they took people and destroyed their lives and went bankrupt because they couldn't afford the legal fees and they were good people, many, many people.
So when you ask me that question, all they have to do is see how nice this weather is, if I made a mistake and said I was talking to the media and it was a little bit rainy, a little bit overcast, they would say well we have to do -- he lied. Let me tell you. I've seen what they do to people. I've seen how
they've destroyed people like General Flynn and so many others, what they've done to people, no, I did the right thing.
TRUMP: Well, Mueller had no material. Sure, Mueller had no material to work with. And he did a horrible job. Obviously his presentation was way off. But that's OK. It didn't matter. He had no material. There was nothing done wrong. In fact, things were done right. There was nothing done wrong.
And certainly -- look, I read the papers and I read the press and I read the Internet and if you see what is going on the Internet, if you listen to the Internet, this was one of the worst performances in the history of our country. So you know that. You know that very well.
But I don't think anybody could have done a good performance. He had no material. It was a fake set of facts that the Democrats used to -- and others to try and do really an illegal overthrow. But we'll find out about it.
QUESTION: Mr. President, (INAUDIBLE)
TRUMP: Well, the asylum is -- say it?
TRUMP: So the asylum is a very big ruling. It was a tremendous ruling today. We a -- we appreciate it. We respect the very much. And the numbers are way down at the border which is a good thing.
Apprehensions are way down because Mexico has now 22,000 soldiers and they mean business because they know what happens. The alternative is not good for them. It is also good for Mexico what they're doing because the cartels have been running all of the border for years and years.
And Mexico is saying and the president is saying we have to clean it up. So they've got 21,000 soldiers, they'll probably put up more. But this ruling today on asylum is a tremendous ruling.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) about Guatemala.
TRUMP: They gave us their word and we were going to sign an agreement and all of a sudden they backed up and said it was their Supreme Court, I don't believe that. But they used the Supreme Court as the reason they didn't want to do it. So we'll either do tariffs or we'll do something.
We're looking at something very severe with respect to Guatemala. I've already cut all payments. I did that a year ago. I cut all payments going to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. We used to send them $500 million for nothing. For nothing. They didn't do anything except set up caravans.
So Guatemala, we're going to take care of and it won't even be tough. We're looking at a couple of different things. One of the things very heavy is, as you know, Mexico put 6,000 people on that border.
What do you say about Robert Mueller (INAUDIBLE)?
TRUMP: Let me just tell you something, I know you're always -- you always have a question.
TRUMP: You mean my White House aides lied. What about his aides? What about Mueller's aides?
And your answers were generally untruthful. What do you think about it?
He didn't say that at all. You're untruthful when you ask that question. When you ask that question, you're untruthful. And you know who else is untruthful?
You know who else is untruthful?
His aides. And Wiseman was untruthful and he got caught just like he did with Arthur Anderson where he lost in the Supreme Court 9-0. His aides were very untruthful and they put Mueller --
QUESTION: -- impeding the investigation --
TRUMP: Not at all and they put Mueller a very bad position. His aides put him in a bad position and if you were ever truthful you would be able to write the truth.
QUESTION: You have called --
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST (voice-over): So there he is. The president wrapping up an extended question and answer session with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House just as he's getting ready to board Marine One to take him to Joint Base Andrews. He's flying off to West Virginia later tonight for a political fundraiser.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. Welcome to THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following lots of breaking news from the White House, the president declaring total victory, going on a tirade about the Russia investigation and the report of the special counsel, Robert Mueller -- the former special counsel, I should say.
The president said Democrats have hurt themselves badly today. He said that will play out dramatically in the 2020 vote. His comments follow seven hours of testimony by Mueller before two congressional committees earlier in the day.
Mueller defended his investigation into Russia's attack on the 2016 presidential election and allegations that President Trump obstructed justice. Then he flatly contradicted --
BLITZER: -- President Trump, telling Congress his report did not, repeat, did not exonerate the president and also declaring that his investigation was no witch hunt and Russia's election interference was no hoax.
Our correspondents and analysts are standing by for full reaction to all of the dramatic developments of the day.
On edge before the hearings, President Trump, as you just saw, has undergone a truly dramatic change of mood. Let's go to our White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, you could see how the president is gloating right now. He thinks this is a huge victory for him and the Republicans.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And White House officials said to expect this as they were getting ready for the president to leave the White House because they said he would come over and claim victory in front of reporters and that is essentially what you saw the president do there as he spoke with us for about 30 minutes on the South Lawn just now.
But, Wolf, I have to point out a few things the president said. He seemed to misunderstand that correction that Robert Mueller made today during the second hearing, where he had an exchange with Ted Lieu earlier in the day.
He said it wasn't correct that if not but for that OLC opinion that a sitting president could not be indicted, would they have indicted him. And Mueller said that was correct. He later came back to say that is not what he meant to say, that he was saying they did not make an assessment on whether or not the president committed a crime, due in part to that assessment -- to that OLC guideline.
The president seemed to misunderstand that when several reporters were asking if he is concerned there's a chance he could be indicted for crimes once he's out of office. The president repeatedly going after reporters, saying those were unfair and fake questions, even though he just seemed to misunderstand what that correction was.
Secondly, the president spoke with reporters on how he did not sit down with Robert Mueller, something that Robert Mueller actually shed some light on today about why they didn't pursue that subpoena with the president, because he thought it would drag out the investigation.
And you saw the president telling reporters he thinks he made the right decision in not sitting down with the former special counsel. But overall, Wolf, the president's overarching theme here as he came out to reporters, when asked about things that Robert Mueller said, including that his report did not exonerate the president, the president now is claiming that Robert Mueller never had the right to exonerate him even though, Wolf, you know time and time again, the president has claimed this is a report that has exonerated him. All of this is part of the president's change in tone from just this
morning, where he was calling people early in the hours before dawn, essentially, talking about this being agitated that Robert Mueller was going to be on Capitol Hill.
But after seeing Robert Mueller's performance during that first hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee, aides started to see a change in the president's mood, where he shifted from being irritated with the special counsel, to triumphant and feeling that he's essentially gotten some sense of victory out of all of this.
BLITZER: Certainly did. That was the impression that we all got from the president, clearly very, very pleased. Kaitlan, I want you to stand by. I want to bring in our CNN legal analyst, Laura Coates and our crime and Justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz and our senior Justice correspondent Evan Perez.
Evan, first of all, what do you think about what we heard from the president?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president said that Mueller didn't have anything to work with and I think that is not correct. I think it is clear, as you read this -- the two volumes of the Mueller report, there is a lot here and Mueller today chose essentially not to use all of that.
I think -- I understand that Mueller wants to sort of abide by this idea of staying within the four corners of what is the work product. But there is a lot of room there and he chose not to do it.
And I think obviously he was an unwilling witness and he warned the Democrats essentially that he didn't want to be there. And he made that abundantly clear.
But on a couple of occasions, especially at the beginning, he made it clear this was not an exoneration of the president. He also, in answer to a series of questions, said that once the president leaves office it is possible that he could be indicted for some of his conduct.
Again, those were some of the moments that we were able to get a few things out of Mueller.
But on the big question of -- one of the big questions going into today was, was this report essentially a referral to Congress to take this up and handle it in a way that the Justice Department is not allowed to because this is a sitting president?
Mueller essentially muddied the waters a lot today. I think he could have been a lot clearer in his answers as to what exactly happened here with what the Russians did. And it is not OK and what perhaps the solution would be for the political branches of government to do. And he did not do that.
BLITZER: Shimon, what do you think of Mueller's performance? SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE PRODUCER: I think there were times when he struggled certainly. To me, it always seemed like he didn't have a good command of the facts. And this was something that I think -- I thought a lot about going into this hearing.
Will Mueller have a good command?
Will he know everything that is in this report?
He was in charge of the investigation so we expected him at times to be able to know exactly everything that is in this report. He ran this team. But it looked like many times he was struggling -- he didn't understand a lot of questions; it is granted some of the --
PROKUPECZ: -- questions were convoluted and coming at him fast. And the Republicans were doing what --
PROKUPECZ: -- what you see in a lot of old trials, they were just trying to discredit him in any way which way they could in an effort to try and essentially impeach him.
So look, I think the big thing here, the president makes a point of this and this is a president who is all about performance. And so he's going to home in on that and a lot of people are going to home in on the fact that the performance just wasn't what I think people expected.
BLITZER: It was a shaky performance. I think that is fair to say.
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is. And, of course, he did not live up to the hype that the Democrats said he would be able to. Also, he did not do the heavy lifting that they wanted him to do in the sense of like reading the report for them, having the perfect sound bite enunciated and being able to bring color to the otherwise drab 448-page report.
However that failure does not belong to Mueller. That is more a failure of the strategy of the Democrats who thought they could hang their hats on this entirely. Remember, what did he do?
He wrote a 448-page report with his overall team.
Did he convey it in the way that would bring color to it?
No, he didn't. But that report and all of the information inside of it gave all of the tools that Congress would have needed to act in any way they saw fit. They chose to wait for the televised performance and have the movie version be better than the book. It didn't work out for them.
BLITZER: They waited three months. COATES: They waited three months to do so. And now they have a decision. They have to live with the consequences. This is their bed and they're lying in it. The president is hyperbolic in the statements about the great failure that it is and saying it was wholly discredited and he had nothing to work with.
And there are 448 pages of information to work with. Certainly their plan was initially to say here, now you have heard it, ta-da. Everything is great. But in reality he still said it is not a witch hunt or a hoax and Russia is interfering with our elections. They're still doing it as we sit here today. It will continue unless you actually act on it.
The president may have been compromised in respect of he had some financial thing to gain from interaction with Russia in some way, shape or form. Those are good, really meaty sound bites to have.
PEREZ: And we shouldn't go away from today without emphasizing how much of a big deal it is. You have a sitting president, whose campaign knowingly encouraged the help of a hostile foreign power in interference in the election of 2016.
And what the reaction so far has been from the political establishment is -- certainly from one party has been not a big deal. The other side, the Democrats, have just kind of been focusing on all kinds of other things. And in the end nobody really is going to do anything about it.
And so the bottom line is if you are President of the United States, you could get away with anything and do anything you want. The president said that earlier this week. He may be right because Mueller -- nobody, it appears, is going to hold anybody accountable.
BLITZER: And Shimon, the president said he did the right thing by refusing to testify, to answer questions directly with the special counsel and his team because he said that team is a whole bunch of liars.
PROKUPECZ: So his lawyers made the right decision and with the president and any good lawyer tells their client, don't do it, don't go talk to prosecutors, don't go talk to investigators. It was a smart decision.
I think Mueller -- today, he said, look, I could have subpoenaed him and then he explained, much as he did in the report, why he didn't go through this. They didn't want to extend the time of the investigation.
The other thing to point out is that Mueller did give the Democrats stuff to work with, right. In terms of the WikiLeaks stuff, the problematic in terms of the way the president described WikiLeaks. He said that is -- problematic is an understatement. The other thing, the questions that the president did answer, the written questions, he did say -- Mueller did say that generally that he did find that the president was not truthful.
And I think that was a very significant moment. There is a lot talk about is Mueller going to walk this back now but so far that has not happened and I think that is a critical point in the afternoon's hearing.
BLITZER: We'll see if that happens.
COATES: And remember, this is a legislative body. He clearly said there is essentially a gap between what we know is wrong and what is actually lawful. Close the gap, legislative body. You are the law. If you don't act, anyone will remain above the law. The ball is in their court.
BLITZER: Yes, he said it is up to the Congress. Stand by, guys. I want to go to Capitol Hill. Our senior congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is joining us.
We just heard the president declare total victory. He's not necessarily going to have the last word, though, is he?
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, he's not, because Speaker Pelosi will address the media in just a matter of minutes, along with Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, the two chairmen who presided over those back-to-back hearings.
Now she's been behind closed doors, talking to members in the aftermath of the Mueller hearing and I'm told from a person in the room that she told -- that she -- her members that she respects what they have to do in terms of an impeachment inquiry. If they need to support one, she said, essentially, fine, do what is best for your district.
She said before they get there, moving forward with an impeachment inquiry, they need to have --
RAJU: -- the best possible case in moving forward and that is essentially what she's been saying for some time, that the court actions are taking shape, they need to pursue their current investigative route. We'll see what she has to say when she talks to the media.
But behind closed doors she's reiterating essentially what she's been saying for some time but giving a green light to members if they do want to come out publicly and support an impeachment inquiry.
Some have started to voice more potential support for an impeachment inquiry and one congressman, Sean Maloney, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee, does not support -- had not supported opening up an impeachment inquiry and told me that it is unavoidable to get to the point of an impeachment inquiry.
They're very close and they should move -- he's moving much closer in getting behind such an idea. But not everyone is behind that idea. Another Democrat from a moderate district, from a swing district in New Jersey, a moderate freshman, Jeff Van Drew, told me this is not the time to move forward with an impeachment inquiry. He said let's move on to other issues.
And in order for the Speaker to get behind opening up an impeachment probe, she needs a groundswell of support, particularly from freshman and districts that the president carried and people who empowered her to the House majority.
If you see more of those people flip, perhaps she also will flip. But at the moment, it appears that more people may call for an impeachment inquiry. Whether the Speaker does, though, Wolf, is another question.
BLITZER: We'll stand by with you for Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker, to get her reaction. Adam Schiff is speaking as well.
In the meantime, let's go to a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois, who did some of the questioning today.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY (D-IL), MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Thank you.
BLITZER: You asked Robert Mueller if he was disturbed by Donald Trump's public encouragement of WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign. Let me play that exchange you had with Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUIGLEY: "This just came out, WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks," Donald Trump, October 10th, 2016.
"This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable, it tells you the inner heart. You got to read it," Donald Trump, October 12th, 2016.
"This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove," Donald Trump, October 31, 2016.
"Boy, I love reading those WikiLeaks," Donald Trump, November 4th, 2016.
Would any of those quotes disturb you, Mr. Director?
ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL: I'm not certain I would say --
QUIGLEY: How do you react to them?
MUELLER: Well, it is probably -- problematic is an understatement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Mueller went on to say, Congressman, he was worried that kind of encouragement could give some hope or some boost to what is and should be illegal activity. What did you make of that response from the former special counsel?
QUIGLEY: It was nice to see him open up. I think he was a little reserved in the rest of this hearing. I think all of this is important to remember, it is also on the heels of my reminding him that, as CIA director, Mr. Pompeo called WikiLeaks a hostile intel agency.
So we have to remember they're dangerous and they're a threat to the American way of life and our security. And here you have the president of the United States praising them and I suppose now calling all of that news fake news.
So I welcomed the special counsel opening up. I think his years of law enforcement reminded him of how dangerous WikiLeaks is and gave him an opportunity to say what the American public needed to hear.
BLITZER: Mueller was clearly disturbed by that kind of behavior from the Trump campaign, Congressman.
But do you think he adequately explained his decision not to prosecute that kind of conduct?
QUIGLEY: I think -- look, I have all of the respect in the world for the special counsel. There is a few things that still trouble me. I thought he bent over backwards, not only not indicting the president of the United States but refusing to come out in terms of whether or not he obstructed.
He clearly could have done that, just as he said, in an abundance of fairness. He doesn't indict his son because he was ignorant of the law and, of course, today he talked about this, he refused to subpoena the president of the United States because of time constraints.
This is the most important investigation of our lifetime. And whether or not the president of the United States gets to decide whether he responds to a subpoena, just because he'll act out poorly and fight this out in a court, that was the wrong choice.
BLITZER: At times it seemed like Mueller wasn't necessarily entirely familiar with sections of the 448-page report.
Do you believe he had full command of the facts?
QUIGLEY: Look, this was a tough day for him. It is not just seven hours in front of an often hostile audience but the first half of this was absolutely brutal. He had my Republican colleagues yelling at him for four and a half minutes and when he attempted to answer --
QUIGLEY: -- they would interrupt him.
They were extraordinarily disrespectful to him. They have absolutely no respect for someone who had, coming into this investigation, the highest credibility on a bipartisan basis, a war hero and a true American.
BLITZER: You're among, at least by our count, 93 House Democrats who want to begin formal impeachment proceedings. But most lawmakers in your own party don't want to go down that path, at least not yet.
Do you think Mueller's testimony today changed enough minds in your party to build momentum toward impeachment?
QUIGLEY: I think it begins organically from the public. And obviously we know that only about 3 percent of the American public had read the report before today. So the fact that they got seven hours of reinforcement on that will certainly help.
It takes a long time to move people, to move that needle. Obviously they're concerned about the frontliners in the districts who are people that haven't decided.
And we also have to remember that a lot of this was poisoned by the fact the first time people heard about this report came from the attorney general telling people -- lying to the American public about what was in the report, saying that the president was exonerated.
That is a lot to overcome, never mind that the three years in which the president obstructed the investigation and worked hand in glove with people like Chairman Nunes to defeat every effort to find out what took place.
BLITZER: The president, as you just heard, is taking a victory lap right now. He's saying this whole thing for the Democrats was an embarrassment, a waste of time, the Democrats hurt themselves very badly. He went on and on.
Do you worry that the testimony today from Mueller may have backfired?
QUIGLEY: Look, if all you take from this testimony today was the fact that the Russians attacked our democratic process and that process, they invited, they incorporated the assistance, they got from the Russians into the campaign plan, nobody called the FBI.
In fact, they attacked the FBI. If that helps the president, well, then our country has bigger problems.
BLITZER: You think Mueller's reluctance to go beyond the scope of the report underscores the need to bring in witnesses, like the former White House counsel, for example, Don McGahn?
QUIGLEY: I think it does. I think the bigger part of that -- look, this is the most important investigation report of our lifetime but as important as that is what is not in there and the special counsel referenced the counterintelligence information. Questions of the possibilities of money laundering. Was the president of the United States -- or is the president of the United States compromised?
That affects our national security. So that is why this still has to go forward. The fact that we're obstructed all along and the special counsel
wasn't looking into the financial aspects tells there is still much work to do.
I'd like to bring in the FBI director to get questions. What are they doing on the counterintelligence investigations, where are they and how they are affecting our national security?
BLITZER: So what is your strategy now?
Where do you go from here?
QUIGLEY: Look, every day in this investigation is important. But it is like a football game. When someone said that was the most important play of the game until the next play. The investigation continues because the work really matters. And the issues of counterintelligence should come first.
BLITZER: Congressman Quigley, thanks so much for joining us, Congressman Mike Quigley of Illinois.
Once again, we're standing by to hear from the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, from the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff and they're about to hold a news conference to make a statement.
We just heard from the president. He was gloating. He was very pleased. He said this was a horrible day, a devastating day for the Democrats. The Democrats, he said, had nothing and then went on to say they have less than nothing.
Let's bring in our political, legal and national security experts to assess what is going on.
And, Dana, as we await to hear from the Speaker, there is dramatic reaction unfolding.
DANA BASH, CNN SR. U.S. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That is right. As Manu was just reporting, the Speaker called a very urgent, last- minute meeting with members of the caucus and his sources and my sources, the headline that we are hearing from them about her message was, basically nothing new. I'm going to keep on keeping on.
We're going to keep fighting in the courts and keep fighting to get key witnesses who have refused to come before us, like Don McGahn, who we heard a lot about today and then we'll see what happens.
That is really important because the base people out there who were looking to this day, to this testimony as the game-changer for not just public opinion but Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders' decision, to say finally, OK, we are going to begin an impeachment inquiry, they're not going to hear that.
Unless something dramatic changes between now and minutes from now when she takes that podium, they're not going to hear that. She's in the same place that she was. We're not there yet. [17:30:00] But she also, as Manu said, according to his sources, said
to the members in the districts who are hearing that groundswell -- we've already seen 80-plus of them say, OK, we want impeachment proceedings to go ahead -- others may add to that because they're hearing that call back home.
BLITZER: Because as you saw, Bianna, a lot of the Democrats were disappointed in Mueller's performance today. They thought the movie would be better than the book, and they're not necessarily convinced that it was.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Which is why the book is typically always better than the movie.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right.
GOLODRYGA: I think Mueller himself sort of alluded to what his performance may look like given the fact that he didn't want to be there from the get-go. A lot of what he said in those nine minutes that we heard from him back in May was, hopefully, according to him, what we would hear, and that's it.
You did hear a lot from him today. I just think given the number of hours that he was sitting there and with the exception of a few congressmen, it could really have all been left to Nadler and Schiff --
GOLODRYGA: -- with regards to the most important and crucial -- and I think, at times, when you saw Mueller on his game -- moments. It was the exchanges that volleyed back and forth with -- in particular with Schiff.
And it begs the question -- and I've been wondering this since we knew the schedule -- why it wasn't reversed, why Intel Committee wasn't in the morning and why we didn't have Judiciary in the afternoon.
Intel was clearly the area where Mueller was most passionate with regards to Russia infiltrating and attacking our election system. It seemed he was a bit nervous coming into the Judiciary panel. And I think had we started the other way around, especially with the arc of storytelling, maybe things would have gone differently.
But, look, he is very different from Donald Trump. He's not an attack dog. There were plenty of opportunities where he could have fought back, where he could have answered in response to some of the attacks that were coming from the Republicans, he chose not to. I think Donald Trump, the President smelled blood, and that's why you heard what we did from him today.
BLITZER: What did you think, Nia? HENDERSON: No, I think that's right. You heard Adam Schiff kind of
leading up to this Mueller testimony and hearing, essentially saying he wanted Mueller to bring this to life. And we didn't really see that today.
I think Mueller was very reluctant, obviously, to come here, and I think we see today why that was. He, at times, appeared that he didn't know the report as thoroughly as he could, and he had his aide there who he didn't rely on as much as --
BLITZER: His aide didn't say anything.
HENDERSON: Yes, he didn't rely on him really at all. But I think that was surprising, I think, to a lot of the public who, you know -- people, you know, haven't really heard from Mueller aside from that statement he gave earlier. All we saw was sort of him on those videos where he looked and sounded like a different person in many ways, so I think that's probably is shocking.
I do think a lot of Democrats, so even base Democrats, have sort of given up on the idea of Mueller as savior and this idea that the general public is going to shift in terms of their feelings about impeachment because of what happened over these last three months. There was all of this kind of wrapped up in Mueller and in the report. And then when it came out, I think there was sort of a reality that set in among many Democrats who were among the base.
SUSAN HENNESSEY, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND LEGAL ANALYST: So, I'm going to disagree a little bit here. I agree that Robert Mueller wasn't especially charismatic, but I actually think what mattered today was not the performance of Robert Mueller. The guy was never going to get up there and sort of put on a big performance. That's just not who he is.
The task for the Republicans was to attempt to discredit him in some way. Yes, they threw him off his game a little bit, but I think, fundamentally, they didn't achieve that goal.
The task of the Democrats was to refocus attention on the substance of the report to make the case to the American people, to get the American people's attention about what is actually in that document. And I actually think that if you look at their performance today, they did a pretty good job of that. They used slides. They pulled out those key moments. Some of those exchanges really were incredibly compelling.
And so, you know, look, I know it wasn't sort of the game-changer. Mueller didn't get up there and say, you know, I would have indicted him or some piece of information that might have dramatically shifted the conversation. That said, I think today was incredibly consequential. I don't buy for a minute that the President actually believed it was a good day for him. What was painted was a devastating portrait for the White House. BASH: So, I think if you look at the totality of it, that -- and if
you sat and watched from the beginning to the end and knew all the ins and outs and all the names and all of the specifics and the legal jargon that they were talking about, absolutely. But in today's Twitter age, in the Trump Twitter age, I'm not so sure it translated.
HENNESSEY: I think --
GOLODRYGA: And the buildup, too.
GOLODRYGA: If this had just come two years ago, I think this would have been a bombshell. We've become so numb to all of this. A lot of what was in the report had been reported by fellow reporting from news organizations over the past two years, so none of it was as shocking as one would think and expect it to be.
BLITZER: Everybody, stand by. I want to go to Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. He's a member of the Judiciary Committee. He's chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. So, were you disappointed, or do you believe Robert Mueller did accomplish what he needed to do today?
[17:34:55] REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY), MAJORITY MEMBER, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY: Well, he told a story to the American people based on the facts that were gathered over a 22-month-long investigation. We didn't expect to hear from Robert Redford; we expected to hear from Robert Mueller. And he is a Marine, he is a great American, he is a patriot. He's a talented law enforcement professional. And he laid out a devastating case that compares and contrasts with the lies that have been peddled by Donald Trump out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Donald Trump said the whole Russia thing is a hoax. Bob Mueller made clear that Russia attacked our democracy in a sweeping and systematic fashion. Donald Trump said this whole Russian investigation is a witch-hunt. Bob Mueller made clear that the Trump campaign, at the highest levels, welcomed Russian interference with the election that was designed to benefit Donald Trump.
Donald Trump said that he was totally and completely exonerated. Bob Mueller made clear nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there was substantial evidence that they uncovered of obstruction of justice committed by the President.
BLITZER: During your questioning of Mueller today, Congressman, you did lay out your case that President Trump obstructed justice, but Mueller told you he didn't necessarily subscribe to your legal analysis. Were you disappointed that he wouldn't give a clear answer on whether or not he believes the President committed obstruction?
JEFFRIES: It was important for him to acknowledge that the three elements of obstruction of justice that we laid out -- an obstructive act, a connection to an official proceeding, and corrupt intent -- were found in terms of the evidence that was laid out in the report.
He didn't resist the questioning in that regard. He acknowledged that those elements had effectively been met. He declined to bring the three elements together at the end, but I didn't expect that to be done. The American people are going to have to decide whether his testimony speaks for itself.
BLITZER: Were you disappointed that Mueller wouldn't say whether or not the President would have been indicted if not for that long- standing Justice Department policy that a sitting president can't be charged or indicted?
JEFFRIES: That is effectively what he said. That's how I perceived his testimony. And, again, Bob Mueller indicated he was going to stick to the script. But much of the script had not been brought to light to the American people because the overwhelming majority of the American people had not read the report. Understandably, given that they are living day-to-day, week-to-week, check to check.
And so that's why today was an important step forward, but it's just the beginning, not the end. We're going to continue to follow the facts, apply the law, and be guided by the constitution.
BLITZER: Throughout both hearings, the Judiciary and Intelligence, Mueller declined to answer a whole bunch of questions that lawmakers were asking him. In general, was he transparent enough, Congressman? Were you satisfied with his testimony?
JEFFRIES: We were satisfied with his testimony to the extent that we understood he was going to stay within the four corners of the report. And he didn't resist Democrats on either the Judiciary Committee or the Intelligence Committee when we pointed him specifically to the devastating findings that had been laid out in both Volume 1 and Volume 2 where, again, he repeatedly found instances of substantial evidence to suggest that the President engaged in obstruction of justice. And he also made clear that obstruction of justice is a serious crime that undermines the rule of law and the very fabric of our legal system in the United States of America. That was important.
BLITZER: Has he -- by our count, at least 93, maybe 94, House Democrats support starting formal impeachment proceedings. Before today's hearing, you were not among those lawmakers. Did Mueller's testimony today change your mind?
JEFFRIES: Well, it's a building block in terms of determining the ultimate accountability that Trump needs to confront based on the fact that we believe, in America, no one is above the law, certainly not the President of the United States of America. I chair the House Democratic Caucus. Part of my job is to make sure that we embrace the opinions and perspectives of every single member within the caucus. We're in the process of having conversations right now about how to move forward.
BLITZER: So, you haven't changed your mind, at least not yet. Is that right?
JEFFRIES: Not yet.
BLITZER: What would it take for you to change your mind?
JEFFRIES: Well, again, we are going to gather all of the information necessary and then collectively decide how best to proceed in terms of accountability for this president and what is the right thing to do to promote the rule of law consistent with the constitution. And to make sure that we proceed in a fashion that keeps the country together.
BLITZER: Because you just said no one is above the law including the President of the United States. So, if impeachment is the only remedy for a president who breaks the law, why are you so -- still so reluctant to join your colleagues in supporting a formal impeachment inquiry?
[17:39:55] JEFFRIES: Well, Mueller seemed to make clear that there were at least two approaches. One, there is the congressional processes as he put it, otherwise known as impeachment, to hold the President accountable. He also opened the door to the notion that upon completion of a president's term, that the President could then be indicted for crimes that were committed in office. There's a variety of different pathways to explore. We want to make sure that we do what the right thing is for this country.
BLITZER: I know you have to run. One final question, I want you to react to what we heard from the President just moments ago when he said this whole thing has been an embarrassment for the Democrats, a waste of time for the Democrats, the Democrats hurt themselves very badly. What do you say to the President?
JEFFRIES: The President hasn't been completely and totally exonerated. He's a complete and total embarrassment. And sooner rather than later, this long national nightmare that is the Trump presidency will be over.
BLITZER: Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, thanks so much for joining us.
JEFFRIES: Thank you.
BLITZER: All right, let's get back to Dana and the team over here. What do you think?
BASH: Well, the fact that he, who has been squarely in the lane of Nancy Pelosi on impeachment, is saying we're not there yet, that gives you a very good indicator of what we're going to hear from the Speaker herself very shortly. He sounds different from Jerry Nadler, for example, who chaired the first hearing today, who has been technically on board with the leadership but, privately, we've been reporting and been told for some time has been more inclined to begin impeachment proceedings which would happen in his committee.
But the fact that he explicitly said, uh-uh, not yet, that we're hearing behind the scenes from our sources there's no groundswell yet, you know, that's likely what we're going to hear from the House Speaker. But she might put maybe a half a toe in further than she has before given the fact that we've moved forward with the calendar and with the process hearing from Mueller.
BLITZER: We're showing our viewers some live pictures coming in from where Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker, will be coming in. I think she is going to be joined by Adam Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and maybe Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. They were holding the hearings today. We'll see what she has to say. That could be, Bianna, very significant.
GOLODRYGA: Yes, it could, but I agree with Dana, especially what we heard from Representative Hakeem Jeffries that, I think, that there is still more digging that they're wanting to do right now. They seem confident that there is more information that they want to get specifically from some star witnesses like McGahn. I think, on the issue of obstruction, they still have a lot more questions there.
And I think, ultimately, when it comes to the President's behavior with regard to his response to Russia attacking the U.S. election system, it's going to be the next front that they approach. Because if there is any takeaway from what you heard today from Robert Mueller, it's that the Russians continue to attack, and they will likely attack in 2020 -- and not only the Russians but specifically the Russians -- and nothing to his satisfaction is being done to address that.
HENDERSON: And the idea that he sort of fears this is the new normal, that, you know, someone could get away with taking information from a foreign power or using that information from a foreign power. Yes, I mean, agree that, you know, Hakeem Jeffries there at some point said it's just the beginning, not the end.
So, for, you know, Democrats who might be disheartened by what they saw today, here he was, I think, rallying the troops basically saying there is more to come. Whether or not that means bringing somebody like Don McGahn who was, you know, very much a subject today of questioning for Bob Mueller because he was so crucial in terms of these allegations around the President obstructing justice. So, we'll see. But I think he's a good soldier. I think he probably represents two-thirds of where Democrats are now in terms of an impeachment inquiry.
HENNESSEY: Look, I think there is one thing that was incredibly interesting and consequential about what we saw from the Republicans today, and that's what they weren't -- that they were not disputing the factual assertions in Mueller's report. They were off talking about the Steele dossier, quibbling over the legal technicalities, but by and large, implicit in their questions was their assumption that Don McGahn is telling the truth and Donald Trump is lying. That Jim Comey is telling the truth and Donald Trump is lying, right? That the Trump campaign was aware of the Russian efforts to interfere in the election. That they sought to actively encourage, they welcomed help from WikiLeaks.
We saw them quoting those lines of the -- we saw the Democrats quoting those lines of the report back to Robert Mueller. We actually didn't see any effort by the Republicans to suggest that somehow Robert Mueller had gotten this story wrong. And to the extent that part of Mueller's mandate was to sort of come up with the common set of facts that all Americans are going to agree on moving forward, he appears to have actually accomplished that task. Even on some of the most astonishing and consequential things that we see in that document.
BASH: Which is what Adam Schiff was really trying to focus on in his closing moments with Robert Mueller, saying the standard for this country cannot be so low that just as long as the President doesn't commit a crime makes everything OK. And I think he effectively conveyed that thought process as well.
[17:44:56] BLITZER: The President has often said he had total exoneration from this investigation. Mueller made it clear today that is not true. Listen to this exchange he had with Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the committee.
We'll let -- I'll read it to you. What about total exoneration, Jerry Nadler said. Did you totally exonerate the President? Mueller's answer? No.
BASH: That was the first Q&A exchange of the day and still, I think, the most dramatic. In the first break, I said they probably could have ended the day's hearings right there and gotten what they wanted in terms of hearing from the Special Counsel's mouth the substance of what really matters to Democrats, aside from the, you know, meddling in American elections, which is obviously huge.
But just on the obstruction question, that -- hearing from his mouth what it said in the report and, most importantly, the way it contradicts what we've heard from the President over and over again, no, he did not exonerate the President. He, Mueller, would not go a step further, of course, despite Democrats trying many, many times in saying, but I do believe that he committed a crime.
HENNESSEY: And one thing we saw -- we saw Democrats attempting to do was walk through all those statutory elements, getting Robert Mueller to say, yes, this element was met; yes, that element was met. Mueller tried to sort of say, now, remember, that doesn't mean I'm agreeing with your overall characterization --
BASH: Right, right.
HENNESSEY: -- sort of I see where you're trying to lead me here, and I don't want to play this game. The message from Robert Mueller was not that it was not at all that he exonerated the President. The message from Robert Mueller was it's your decision.
HENNESSEY: It is this body's decision whether or not a crime was committed here. My work here is done. I have developed the factual evidence. I have developed evidence on every single criminal element. I've put it for you in a report and I've put it on your desk and I'm not going to do this work for any longer. Now, it's your turn to decide whether or not you are prepared to confront what the -- what's in this document and what it means for the future of this country.
HENDERSON: Yes, and that's always been the case, right? I mean, since this report was released, they have had all of this information. You had Mueller affirm what was in that report over and over again today.
But it's going to, ultimately, be up to Democrats. What do they want to do? Can they keep sort of slow walking this in the way that they have been, essentially saying, you know, we're waiting for more facts, we want a more compelling case? They have the case. I mean, it's there. I mean, Robert Mueller laid it out pretty convincingly in his report.
HENNESSEY: And I think that's a reason to be a little bit suspicious of sort of, do we know if there is a groundswell or not? By all indications, Nancy Pelosi has really been holding things off here. She's trying to keep it at bay. And so, we're seeing more and more sort of --
BASH: It's early.
HENNESSEY: -- members --
BASH: No, I think you're right. I think it's too -- I mean, this just happened. We're going to see what happens. I think the issue is just on the way that this plays politically, is that what you just said, Robert Mueller giving the message, OK, Congress, this is up to you, he never -- that was the message but he never actually said that because that's not his way. Had he said that, which is what the Democrats who want this were desperate for, for him to say here is my road map, I couldn't indict because, constitutionally, it's Congress that has to deal with the President of the United States, the ball is in your court. He never went that far.
GOLODRYGA: Which is not to say that this was a total victory either for Republicans because what Republicans were really hoping to focus on was the origins of this investigation, right, and any corruption --
BLITZER: Here comes Nancy Pelosi. She's walking in. And it looks like Jerry Nadler -- yes, that's Jerry Nadler. He's there as well, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Good evening, everyone. Sorry for the delay. It's been a pretty interesting day. A historic one, as a matter of fact. A day in which the former Special Counsel affirmed in public what the Mueller report put forth. It is a crossing of a threshold in terms of the public awareness of what happened and how it conforms to the law, or not.
The President likes to have his poster that said the Mueller report took these many days, cost this much money, this, that, and the other. Well, we have a corresponding contradictory chart, Mueller investigation by the numbers.
$40 million recovered for the U.S. government. Remember, he said how much it would cost? Less than that. Thirty-seven people and entities charged with crimes, 25 ongoing criminal cases referred, seven convicted including five top Trump campaign officials. And then he had no collusion, no this or that. Ten instances of obstruction, yes; no exoneration. That's some of what we heard today.
[17:49:56] I just want to go to another point, that -- at the same time as we're on this path of the Mueller investigation, to recognize that the Mueller investigation was prohibited from looking into the President's finances. And that is what our committees of jurisdiction had been doing. As we legislate for the good of the American people, we're also investigating so that we have the grist for the mill to litigate in court.
And those cases we've won in lower courts, they, of course, appealed. We feel strongly that our position -- about the position of Article 1, the legislative branch having the right to have oversight over the -- over every other branch of government. But that's important because it means we can get the information to show the American people what the obstruction of justice was further all about.
I'm very, very proud of our committees, the Judiciary Committee and its great chairman, Jerry Nadler; the Intelligence Committee, great chairman Adam Schiff. We're going to hear from them now. And we're also joined by Elijah Cummings, chair of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee, a committee that is winning its courts in case as well.
So, I'm going to yield with great respect to all three of our chairmen and then we'll take some questions. First, I'll yield to the distinguished chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Nadler.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Today, the American people heard directly about what the Special Counsel investigation uncovered.
As to Russia's interference in the 2016 election and the President's cooperation with it and obstruction of justice, Mueller made clear that the President is not exonerated. Mueller found evidence of obstruction of justice and abuses of power by the President. He said -- the report said the President could be indicted for obstruction of justice after he leaves office.
Mueller found that Trump would and did benefit from Russia's help and that the campaign welcomed that help. Mueller found multiple instances where all three elements for charging criminal obstruction of justice were met -- trying to fire the Special Counsel in order to stop the investigation, trying to have people lie and cover-up for him for the same purpose, trying to limit or impede or constrict the Special Counsel's investigation, trying to tamper with witnesses -- tamper with witnesses cooperating with investigators.
All of these were found with great evidence. President Trump went through great lengths to obstruct the Special Counsel's investigation. Anyone else who acted in this way, if they were not the sitting president, would face criminal prosecution, would face indictments. Only the Office of Legal Counsel's opinion that you can't indict a sitting president has saved or is saving the President from indictment because all the elements of -- of these crimes were found with -- with substantial evidence, and the people have now heard this. The President's chant of no obstruction is nonsense. His chant that he's been totally exonerated is a simple lie.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE PERMANENT SELECT COMMITTEE ON INTELLIGENCE: First of all, I want to thank Director Mueller for a lifetime of service to the country, from his days as a young Marine in Vietnam through his decades of service as a prosecutor, as a Director of the FBI, and through his service as Special Counsel. This nation owes him an enormous debt of gratitude. So, Director Mueller, I want to thank you personally for all of your services.
Today, the Director outlined, in powerful words, how Russia intervened massively in our election, systemically, in a sweeping fashion; how, during the course of that intervention, they made multiple approaches to the Trump campaign. And far from shunning that foreign involvement in our election, the Trump campaign welcomed it, made full use of it, put it into its communications and messaging strategy, and then lied about it. Lied about it to cover it up, lied about it to obstruct the investigation into that very attack on our democracy.
Part of what I found so powerful about his testimony today was not just when he was asked about the law, but when he was asked about the ethics, the morality, the lack of patriotism of this conduct. And perhaps one of the most chilling moments I think in our committee was when he expressed the fear that this becomes the new normal.
[17:54:55] And, of course, I think what is animating that fear of the Director, what certainly animates it for me, is the fact that even after the nightmare of the last 2-1/2 years, the President of the United States will still not forswear receiving foreign help again. That, to this point, the President still continues to call this Russian attack on our democracy a hoax, something that Director Mueller today directly refuted. That he still calls it a witch-hunt, something that Director Mueller today directly refuted.
And so, we go into this next election more vulnerable than we should be. We can't control completely what Russia does, although we must do everything we can to harden our election defenses to make sure there are paper trails, to make sure that we deter and disrupt any kind of Russian intervention. But we cannot control that completely, but we can control what we do. And Director Mueller made it clear in no uncertain terms that it's up to us whether we act ethically and patriotically, whether we refuse to be a party to a foreign attack on our democracy. And once again, I thank him for his service.
PELOSI: Thank you. Elijah? Thank you.
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM: Thank you very much. I first want to applaud Chairman Nadler and -- who heads our Judiciary Committee and certainly our chairman of our Intelligence Committee for what they did today in their committees. What they did was paint a picture for America.
One of the most chilling things that I have noticed -- that I've witnessed is when a member -- former member of my committee, Mr. Amash, a Republican, went to a town hall meeting and got a round of applause in a Republican district after he had said that he felt that the President should be impeached. But that wasn't the thing that got me. What really got me was when a lady at the end of the town hall meeting said, I didn't know that there was anything negative in the Mueller report about President Trump. That says a lot.
And to her credit, our Speaker made it clear that we need to paint a picture for America for they could -- so that they could fully understand what is going on. This is a critical moment in our country's history. Don't be fooled. And it is a moment which people will be talking about and reading about 300, 400, 500 hundred years from now. And they're going to ask the question, what did you do when we had a president who knew the rules and knew that our founding fathers had done a great job of creating a constitution and had put in all the guardrails but never anticipated that we would have a president that would just throw away the guardrails?
And that's why what happened today is so critical. It was a giant step in making sure that the American people were -- got a picture of all of this and, hopefully, will look toward the future and say, we're not going to have this. Both Mr. Nadler and Mr. Schiff said something that's very critical, this isn't normal. And we have gotten so -- we're now getting so used to normal to this kind of conduct by our president -- and by the way, of our Attorney General and our Republican colleagues -- that we -- it looks like people are just going to accept it. Well, we refuse to accept it.
And then in my committee, we constantly -- and I know Schiff and Nadler have heard this. People say, oh, you're just messing with the President because you don't like him. It's not about not liking the President; it's about loving democracy. It's about loving our country. It's about making a difference for generations yet unborn. That's what this is all about.
And I'm begging -- I'm begging the American people to pay attention to what is going on. Because if you want to have a democracy intact for your children and your children's children and generations yet unborn, we have got to guard this moment. This is our watch.
[18:00:01] And again, I am so, so very proud of the Judiciary Committee. I'm so very, very proud of the Intelligence Committee --