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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Stunning Number of Trump Lies Exposed By Mueller Report; Senator Warren: House Should Begin Impeachment Proceedings; Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) is Interviewed About the Path Forward After Mueller Report. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired April 19, 2019 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:03]

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Anderson Cooper.

I will see you again tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on "360," and also at 11:00 p.m. for a live edition.

"THE LEAD" right now with Jake Tapper starts now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Robert Mueller has left a decision on Congress' doorstep. What will they do?

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Trump cursing and ranting about the -- quote -- "crazy Mueller report," after the special counsel painted a picture of a president saved from himself by disobedient staffers and a White House culture dominated by dishonesty.

Breaking today, a top Democrat issues a subpoena to try to get the full Mueller report. He calls it a road map to investigate this president. Might this lead to impeachment? And is that wise for Democrats?

Plus, 14 investigations. What legal perils lie behind those redacted lines for President Trump and his associates?

Welcome to THE LEAD on this Good Friday. I'm Jake Tapper.

If you thought the Mueller report was the end, it really might just be the beginning. House Democrats have issued a subpoena today to obtain the full report, all the underlying evidence and zero redactions.

The Democrats are now faced with the question of what to do next, after Robert Mueller made it clear he found no direct evidence of any member of the Trump team conspiring with Russia to criminally interfere with the 2016 election, while also describing numerous incidents of potential obstruction of justice by the president and simultaneously painting a devastating picture of a White House and a presidency beset by chaos and prevarication, a president saved, perhaps, only by the DOJ guidelines to not indict a sitting president, and the president's own staff's refusal to carry out his direct orders sometimes. As one senior administration official put it to me this afternoon,

reacting to the report -- quote -- "That the president makes absurd demands of his staff and administration officials, who are alarmed by them, and reluctant to follow them, is not only unsurprising, but has become the norm."

Today, an angry President Trump called the statements made about him in the -- quote -- "crazy Mueller report" fabricated and totally untrue, and -- quote -- "total B.S." -- although he didn't say B.S.

It's a report that we should note was, in part, based on interviews with true Trump insiders, such as Don McGahn and Stephen Miller, Hope Hicks, Corey Lewandowski, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, and on and on.

Those insiders telling the special counsel under oath, a special counsel who sentenced people to jail for lying to him, about all the times President Trump lied to the American people, to you, reports President Trump tried to brand as fake news, reports that were 100 percent accurate all along.

So, while the president has been cleared of conspiracy with Russia, his White House has been exposed for other misdeeds.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins kicks off our coverage now from the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was a complete and total exoneration.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From total exoneration to total B.S., President Trump changing his tune on the special counsel's report one day after its release, tweeting that: "Statements made about me by certain people in the crazy Mueller report, in itself written by 18 angry Democrat Trump-haters, which are fabricated and totally untrue."

The president adding a warning to watch out for people that take so- called notes when the notes never existed until needed. "Because I never agreed to testify, it was not necessary for me to respond to statements made in the report about me, some of which are total B.S."

The president didn't use that shorthand and didn't finish that thought, but at the eye of his tweetstorm is former White House counsel Don McGahn, who, according to the Mueller report, took detailed notes of his conversations with Trump, including one where he asked: "Why do you take notes? Lawyers don't take notes."

McGahn responded that it was because he's a real lawyer with a legal responsibility to keep an accurate record. Trump responded: "I have had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn. He did not take notes."

The report details a troubled relationship between McGahn and Trump, but reveals the former White House lawyer was a major player in stopping the president from influencing the investigation, potentially protecting him from an obstruction charge. The report reveals a president who lied often to the public and his

own staff.

TRUMP: What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.

COLLINS: Including claiming he never tried to fire Mueller, which the report says he did.

QUESTION: Mr. President, did you seek to fire Mueller?

QUESTION: Do you want to fire Robert Mueller?

TRUMP: Fake news, folks, fake news.

QUESTION: What is your message today?

TRUMP: Typical "New York Times" fake stories.

[16:05:00]

COLLINS: He claimed he wasn't pursuing business in Russia, but the report says he was.

TRUMP: I promise you, I never made, I don't have any deals with Russia.

COLLINS: He insisted he knew nothing about WikiLeaks, though the report says he directed campaign associates to find Hillary Clinton's deleted e-mails.

TRUMP: I know nothing about WikiLeaks.

COLLINS: But the dishonesty from the White House didn't stop there, press Secretary Sarah Sanders now under fire after admitting to investigators that she wasn't basing this claim on anything:

QUESTION: So what's your response to these rank and file FBI agents who disagree with your contention that they lost faith in Director Comey?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Look, we have heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things.

COLLINS: Today, Sanders defended making false statements to reporters.

HUCKABEE SANDERS: I'm sorry that I wasn't a robot, like the Democrat Party, that went out for two-and-a-half years and stated time and time again that there was definitely Russian collusion between the president and his campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: So, today, Jake, she characterized it as a slip of the tongue, even though it was a remark that Sarah Sanders made multiple times over the course of those several days.

In another interview, she was asked if the president had ever asked her to lie. She said he had not and that he had also never instructed her, Jake, to break the law.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

Let's chew into this with my experts.

Let's start with Sarah Sanders admitting to the special counsel that something she said, she had claimed, that FBI agents were contacting the White House and telling them how happy they were about Comey being fired, she told the special counsel under oath that that wasn't -- quote -- "founded on anything."

Scott Jennings, she's been trying to spin that since the release of the report. You heard some of that. At least she wasn't talking like a robot, like Democrats, she said.

Wouldn't the decent thing to be just to admit that she shouldn't lie to the American people and apologize for it and then move forward?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, look, I don't condone lying. I don't condone asking other people to lie.

In this particular case, just a little bit more precision would have made it true. I have read op-eds from former senior FBI officials and FBI agents showing their displeasure with Jim Comey. So there was actually a way to make a true statement there.

But the reality is, is that there is some lying in this report. There is some reports of telling other people to lie, and we shouldn't condone it. We shouldn't condone it on any side. I don't condone this, any more than I condone a political party going out and telling the American people for a whole year, say, that their taxes were going up, when instead they were going down.

So, I don't think we should put up with lying. I just think the tab ought to be evenly dispersed across the political spectrum.

SYMONE SANDERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I want to be clear, Jake.

As a communications professional, this should be career-ending for Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She should never set foot on that podium again. As a coms person -- and, Amanda, you know, all you have is your word and what you say.

And the fact that, on more than one occasion, this is just the occasion that we're highlighting today, but there are more than one occasions Sarah Sanders did not tell the truth from the podium, namely, when she said that President Trump knew nothing about the payments to Stormy Daniels, when, in fact, he authorized and signed even one of the checks.

She would not be able to continue in this capacity. It is really just a middle finger, if you will, for lack of a better term, to the respect that should come from that podium and to all the folks that have come before her.

(CROSSTALK)

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think their lies have cost the taxpayers -- these lies have cost the taxpayers $25 million.

The truth is, there was attempted collusion. There was attempted obstruction. And because they lied and lied and lied at every turn, we had to go have this 22-months-long investigation. This report can be summed up in two volumes. It's not obstruction and collusion. It's dumb and arrogant.

The whole first volume is filled with dumb mistakes that this campaign made. They took all kinds of meetings, and then they lied about it in stupid and dumb ways. And then the second part is about covering up for those lies, because Donald Trump didn't want anybody to know that these meetings happened.

And why? I think the stuff with Mike Flynn has really been undercovered, and I really want to know what Robby Mook has to say about this, because Donald Trump tasked National Security Adviser Flynn with going out and trying to find these e-mails on the Dark Web.

And then they talked to some Senate Judiciary staffer to say, hey, maybe we could get the Russians or the Chinese or maybe the Iranians to reassemble these. This is bonkers stuff. No wonder Trump wanted to cover it up.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Robby, yes, go. Let us know what you -- more broadly, Robby.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: You were Hillary -- you were more Hillary Clinton -- you were Clinton's campaign manager. What's your reaction to the Mueller report and what you read in it?

ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, the first thing that stands out to me in all this is, Mueller was indicted in the very beginning that he couldn't indict anyone.

So, it always fascinates me that we did go through a $25 million process, but he was never allowed to indict the center of the investigation, first off.

[16:10:07]

Second, what's been remarkable to me in all of this is what's not illegal, OK? So, as we were just discussing, the report says that there were no crimes, supposedly, as it relates to Russia.

But, to me, it's remarkable that the president of the United States or a candidate running for president of the United States as a major party nominee can call someone up and say, hey, these e-mails that were stolen by a foreign adversary's intelligence service and given to a rogue actor, who has probably, through the leaks of -- from our intelligence community, literally gotten people killed around the world -- people in service of our country probably died as a result of what WikiLeaks has done.

That you can -- that you're allowed to dispatch someone to contact that organization about e-mails stolen from the opposing candidate, and that's not a crime. I mean, I think that's what we need to be spending more time talking about.

I'm convinced at this point we're never going to get to the bottom of what happened in 2016. The president is going to stonewall. They're going to create all these false equivalences to say, well, he does that, and the other side does it, both sides are bad.

Both sides are not bad. But it's insane to me that you can do these things and not commit a crime. And I think that has to change.

TAPPER: But -- so, just in point of fact, I know that the national security community has warned that WikiLeaks leaks, especially about Afghanistan and Iraq, would lead to deaths.

I don't know, I haven't seen any evidence that that happened. I understand that people warned that it would.

But let me ask you a question, Robby, because the -- Mueller laid out that President Trump had a reason to obstruct or obfuscate. Pardon me.

Barr quoted a very select part of this in the letter, saying -- quote -- "The evidence does not establish that the president was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference."

Here's what he left out, though. He went on to say: "The evidence does point to a range of other possible personal motives animating the president's conduct. These include concerns that continued investigation would call into question the legitimacy of his election and potential uncertainty about whether certain events could be seen as criminal activity by the president, his campaign, or his family."

Does this explain the president's conduct? He wasn't afraid of anything being found when it comes to conspiracy with Russia, because there wasn't anything criminal that happened, but he was worried about other things coming to light, Robby?

MOOK: Yes.

Well, I think, again, he's been lying this whole time. And I assume, at some point, those lies are covering up information that I guess we're just never going to know.

And I think this gets back to the issue that the president effectively stonewalled this investigation. He refused to speak to Mueller. And, as you can see in there -- take the example of Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She said something publicly. It was based on absolutely nothing.

We would never have known that unless she was under oath, unless she was under threat of going to jail. And I think the same would have been true with the president. I think we would have learned a lot if the president had been compelled to speak.

TAPPER: Scott...

MOOK: And I think it also speaks to why we need Mueller and others to go to Congress, where they can be asked questions openly by members on both sides.

TAPPER: And I think that's going to happen.

Scott, Mueller seemed to leave open the possibility that President Trump could be charged after he leaves office. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe even said, he absolutely interpreted this as a road map to either begin impeachment proceedings or pursue charges against Donald Trump after he's no longer president.

What do you make of that, Scott?

JENNINGS: Well, first of all, Andrew McCabe is not a paragon of credibility, in my opinion.

However, I do think that that's possible. And I also think the Southern District of New York clearly wants to do something to Donald Trump on campaign finance issues. I think it's ridiculous, of course, but it strikes me that that's also hanging out there.

So, yes, I fully believe that he might have legal issues lingering from some of this. I think it would be bad for the country. I think it would continue to tear the country apart. But, yes, I don't dispute that that's a possibility.

CARPENTER: I think it's pretty simple . If Donald Trump runs his business like his campaign or the White House, he's in trouble.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Everyone, stick around. We have got a lot more to talk about.

One top member of the Senate just now calling for House Democrats to start impeachment proceedings. The chairman of the House Oversight Committee will join us next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:18:26] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We have some breaking news. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who's running for president, is now calling for the House of Representatives to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Trump. Warren argues that Mueller put the next step in the hands of Congress.

But so far, not everyone's onboard. Democrats are struggling to unite around a path forward. CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol Hill picks up our coverage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Today, Democrats opened a new phase in their push to investigate President Trump, aided by the redacted Mueller report, detailing Trump's efforts to thwart the Russia probe.

REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): I believe he committed obstruction of justice, yes.

RAJU: First, the House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena to the Justice Department, demanding the full Mueller report and underlying evidence by May 1st.

Next, Democrats plan to soon issue subpoenas for records from five former White House officials, including former White House counsel, Don McGahn, who was ordered by Trump to fire Mueller and disobeyed the president's demands.

Democrats say the Mueller report gives them a road map to investigate the president for obstruction, since it's states that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the president's corrupt exercise of the powers of office. And that it accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances, and the principle that no person is above the law.

But Republicans said, it's time to move on.

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT): Frustration is not obstruction. I think for those who are pursuing this, I think the American people are exhausted by it.

RAJU: The Mueller report also suggests the probe did not dive into the president's finances, an area that House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff wants to investigate to determine whether the president has any financial ties to foreign interests.

[16:20:10] Yet some Democrats are trying to tamp down calls from the left to pursue impeachment proceedings, saying they ultimately will be unsuccessful because of GOP opposition.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): We need to see that the Republicans actually have an open mind about the situation, rather than acting like members of a religious cult.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU: Now, as Elizabeth Warren is calling for impeachment proceedings to begin in the house, the man who was in charge of that, Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, made clear that this is not his initial focus. He said that that is not the debate they're going to be having as part of their investigation into obstruction of justice. He says he wants to figure out who did what and then we'll decide what to do about it. Then we'll decide what route to go down. So, he wants to pursue the investigative route about obstruction of

justice, not necessarily impeachment, yet -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings of the great state of Maryland. He's the chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

Mr. Chairman, I want to get to impeachment questions in a second. But first, the Mueller report makes clear there is insufficient evidence to charge any member of the Trump team with conspiracy with Russia. Isn't this, A, good news for the country? And, B, something of a vindication for the president on a vital issue?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D-MD): Not really. Basically, when we look at all the facts that have been laid out in the report, things may not have added up to a crime or something that would meet those standards, but clearly we don't want the president doing -- any president doing the kinds of things that have been laid out in this report. We have a president who not only was he lying, but then he was instructing others to lie and to do deceitful things. And it's just -- it's as if they want us to be blinded by what we see.

We cannot allow this to happen, Jake, because, think about it. Once we find out about all the things, these ten items under the obstruction that was laid out by Mueller, now that we know about them, we have no choice but to look into 'em. And I think basically, what Mueller has said, has been clear, is that he wanted to leave it up to the Congress. And then, that we have to do exactly what Chairman Nadler has already begun to do, subpoena not only the unredacted record, but also the underlying documents.

Jake, those documents are very important. And understand, the Republicans who are now running around, talking about, let's get on with it, they are the same ones that a few years ago, when Comey said that he was not recommending indictment for Hillary Clinton, they had Comey in their office within 48 hours, getting every single scrap of paper that was used by the FBI during their investigation. And they got it. They got it.

So we've got to move on. When I say move on, we've got to continue our investigations. Go ahead.

TAPPER: So let's talk about this matter of obstruction of justice, the ten points that you mentioned in the Mueller report. The special counsel clearly leaves the door open, wide open for Congress to investigate and perhaps take action against the president, writing at least seven times about Congress' ability, power, and authority.

Do you want to move forward on articles of impeachment, as Senator Elizabeth Warren called for today?

CUMMINGS: I may, very well, because -- but I want to get -- I want to make sure that I've got all my facts in a row. That's why I want to hear what Barr has to say when he comes before the judiciary. I want to hear what Mueller has to say. There are questions that are still open for him to explain some of his actions, both of them.

And then I want to see what these notes are that underlie this very report. And then I'll be in a position to make that decision.

But I'm not, Jake, going to do what the Republicans have done. They've gone out there and they constantly do hypocritical things, and then they expect the American people to have trust in them.

The main thing, one of the main things we have to do is reestablish trust with the American people and have them buy into it. So, hopefully, they can encourage their representatives to go along with a process that will address this president and his wrongful deeds.

TAPPER: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, your fellow Democratic Marylander, told CNN that it would be not worthwhile for Democrats to pursue impeachment.

[16:25:00] Are you at all concerned that Democrats trying to impeach President Trump, which would clearly fail in the Senate, could ultimately hurt the Democratic Party and help President Trump, as happened when Republicans in the House impeached Bill Clinton 20 years ago?

CUMMINGS: Of course, yes, I am. I think Steny makes a very good point. But I also think that if the American people stops and really looks at what's happening, and that is the things that this president is doing to basically harm our democracy, and they realize how valuable our democracy is, I think they will pressure their representatives to do the right thing.

We've got to continue to paint this picture and show the American people what is happening.

TAPPER: Chairman Elijah Cummings, thank you so much. And Happy Easter to you, sir.

CUMMINGS: Thank you. Same to you.

TAPPER: The Mueller --the Mueller report did not find that their behavior was criminal, but for several Trump associates, their actions were far from normal or decent.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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