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Barr to Speak on Mueller Report; Bill Barr's Press Conference. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired April 18, 2019 - 09:30   ET


[09:30:00] CARRIE CORDERO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Letter. And so if there has been -- so that's something that I'm going to be listening for, if there's been a change between when he issued the March 24th letter and what's transported (INAUDIBLE) --

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He put it in his March 29th letter.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Can we just -- can we just take a second. Could you just -- Jeffrey, why don't you explain to viewers who don't -- because we're just throwing around this term "executive privilege."


TAPPER: What exactly is being discussed here in terms of executive privilege?

TOOBIN: Well, Carrie raises --

TAPPER: And what -- and what is executive privilege?

TOOBIN: Carrie raises a very important point, that the attorney general, in his earlier comments, said there were four categories of information that he was going to keep off limits. There was classified information, grand jury material, material related to other investigations and innocent third parties. That's the -- that -- those are the four categories.

What we learned today is that he is also going to be talking about the issue of executive privilege. Now, executive privilege is a legal doctrine, it is not a law, it's something that's been created by the courts, mostly the Supreme Court of the United States, which says that certain communications between the president and his advisers are off limits for public disclosure because the president should be entitled to get unvarnished advice from his advisers.

Now, what is covered by executive privilege is not entirely clear. It is a murky legal doctrine. There have not been a lot of cases about it. This most famous case is the United States versus Nixon where the United States Supreme Court said in 1974 that the Nixon tapes could be released as part of the Watergate investigation.

But what Carrie is discussing, and I think it's a very interesting point, is, is executive privilege a category of information where there will be some things removed from the Mueller report.

TAPPER: A new category.

TOOBIN: A new category --


TOOBIN: Which -- which is news to us.


TOOBIN: Because -- and maybe he will say executive privilege wasn't invoked, but --

CORDERO: Or it was waived, yes.

TOOBIN: Or it was waived. Let's hear it.

COATES: Can I just add to that.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Just hold on one second because it's 9:31 right now. It's supposed to start at 9:30. We're waiting for the attorney general of the United States to walk out momentarily. We're told he will make a statement and then he will answer reporters' questions.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, Carrie, you're exactly right, something did change. Rudy Giuliani told me on Sunday, four days ago, explicitly, that there had been no conversations between the White House Counsel's Office and Barr's office about anything. And obviously that includes executive privilege. That obviously changed.

CORDERO: And he's going to have to explain that.

BASH: And the request is why.

BORGER: Well, in Barr's March 29th letter, though, he said, the president would have the right to assert privilege, but the president has stated publicly he intends to defer to me and accordingly there are no plans to submit the report to the White House for a privilege review. In other words, if there are claims to privilege made, Barr is the one in charge here. That's what he seemed to be saying here, which is, I'm not going to consult with them. Has that changed? We don't know.

COATES: Well, here's the important thing about -- about what we don't know.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But we know -- we know his personal view, though. We know Bill Barr's personal view on a very strong, executive power.

BORGER: Very strong.

BASH: Very strong. COATES: One thing about privilege, though, it only covers if you have been a part of the executive branch. And, remember, the mandate that actual Mueller has is about the campaign as well. And so it is murky in the way you're talking about, but also is it going to cover the conversations or any activity that took place before even a transition period, before he was actually inaugurated as the president of the United States?


COATES: And that's largely the bulk of it. So we want to keep in mind, if there is the discussion that Barr is prepared to have about executive privilege being asserted, he better be prepared to explain whether or not it's going to extend for the entire period of time that Trump was a candidate and would not be actual -- able to use that particular privilege.

TAPPER: You cannot -- you cannot claim executive privilege if you're not the executive yet is what you're saying?

COATES: No. I mean --

BASH: Right.

COATES: Cory Booker couldn't now claim executive privilege, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, they're not the president of the United States. They're not even in the process of becoming them fully. So they couldn't just say, well, as a candidate, I'm able to use it.

So, he's going to have to define the narrow period of time in which that privilege would apply, to which he would even talk to the president of the United States about how to extend it and for what reason.

And also --

BLITZER: All right, hold on second --

TAPPER: OK. Thank you so much.

BLITZER: Because here comes the attorney general of the United States. We see him walking up to the microphone right now. He'll have an opening statement.

[09:34:33] WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good morning, everybody, and thanks for being here this morning.

As you know, on March 22nd, Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded his investigation into matters related to Russian attempts to interfere in our 2016 presidential election. And he submitted his confidential report to me pursuant to department regulations.

As I said during my Senate confirmation hearing and since, I'm committed to ensuring the greatest degree possible of transparency concerning the special counsel's investigation consistent with the law. (WILLIAM BARR'S PRESS CONFERENCE)

[09:56:08] BARR: No, it's not. It's a report he did for me as the attorney general. He is required, under the regulation, to provide me with a confidential report. I'm here to discuss my response to that report and my decision, entirely discretionary, to make it public, since these reports are not supposed to be made public. That's what I'm here to discuss.

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) impropriety for you to come out and sort of what appears to be sort of spinning the report before public --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is the last question.

QUESTION: The public gets a chance to read it?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, thank you very much. Thank you.

BLITZER: All right, so there you have almost a complete vindication of the president of the United States by the attorney general of the United States. He says, and we still haven't seen this nearly 400 page redacted report, and he says there are limited redactions. But several times, maybe four or five, six times, he said precisely, Jake, what the president of the United States wanted to hear, no collusion.

TAPPER: Yes, at least six or seven times he made the very clear point that the special counsel found no evidence that there was any attempt by anybody on the Trump campaign or associated with the campaign or indeed even any American knowingly conspiring with the Russians. He made the point several times, which will no doubt please President Trump.

I guess the question is now, what does the report say? And how well does that line up with what the attorney general just said?

A couple things struck me.

First of all, there was this attempt to get into the president's head at one point. The attorney general talking about in assessing the president's actions, discussing the report, talking about potential obstruction of justice, it's important to bear in mind the context. President Trump faced an unprecedented situation as he entered into office and sought to perform his responsibilities. Agents and prosecutors were scrutinizing his conduct and the conduct of some of his associates, at the same time there was relentless speculation in the news media about his personal culpability.

Now, when asked about that, the attorney general said, the president's state of mind is relevant in terms of whether or not he obstructed justice and also he took issue with the questioner who characterized it as you're being generous to the president in saying, well, if it's not unprecedented, can you tell me a precedent? So there is this part of the -- of what his comments that is going to be highly debated and discussed over the next several days, weeks, months, about whether or not he was bending over backwards to try to put himself in the president's shoes, be empathetic to President Trump. But there are those who will argue it is relevant to the president's state of mind when talking about obstruction of justice.

There are other little details in here that are fascinating that I, again, we have to wait to see what's in the actual report. And this is why so many people have been critical of the attorney general talking about this, people talking about this press conference as Bill Barr's second summary letter in the sense that he's getting out his interpretation of events before we actually see the actual report.

And the -- and one of them has to do with -- and Jim was talking about this -- the -- whether or not anybody on the Trump team had anything to do with pushing these stolen emails that were published by WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0, and D.C. Leaks, the latter two, D.C. Leaks and Guccifer 2.0 being Russian agents. WikiLeaks taking information, we assume from the Russians, although we don't know that definitively, and noting that under applicable law, publication of these types of materials would not be criminal unless the publisher also participated in the underlying hacking conspiracy. That's something that we'll all going to be poring over when the actual Mueller report comes out.

But bigger picture, the big question is, why did the attorney general do this? We were told it was just to be transparent, that he was just going to be talking about how executive privilege was not waived and his decisions on redactions, et cetera. But it actually was what the Democrats feared it would be, which was the attorney general getting out there and getting his narrative, his take on it as vigorously as possible.

[10:00:04] BLITZER: It was basically, Jeffrey Toobin, a repetition of that March 24th letter when he concluded that, yes.