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Trump Attacks Mueller After He Declines to Clear Him; Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) is Interviewed on Whether President Trump Should be Impeached. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired May 30, 2019 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[08:00:00] ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: He committed a crime, but Mueller said explicitly the opposite yesterday. Mueller did not even consider charging President Trump because of Justice Department guidelines. Mueller said that responsibility falls on Congress, which, of course, begs the question this morning, what will Congress do now?
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: A growing number of House Democrats and 2020 presidential candidates, including one right here on our show, are calling for impeachment proceedings. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to resist, though she says nothing is off the table. The spotlight is also now back on the Attorney General, William Barr. A lot of people are accusing him of misleading lawmakers and the public about the Mueller report. Mueller's version clearly different than the Attorney General's.
Joining me discuss, Congressman Mike Quigley, a Democrat from Illinois and a member of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us. Before yesterday you were not on the list that Nancy Pelosi and others are keeping of Democrats calling for impeachment proceedings to begin. As of this morning, are you?
REP. MIKE QUIGLEY, (D-IL) INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Look, I'd like to think I was a voice in the wilderness here at the length of this investigation, and I've been part of it for the last three years. But clearly the needle is moving for many members and candidates for president of the United States. The continued obstruction by the president, less than subtle message from Mr. Mueller yesterday, the weaponization of the intelligence community to go after the president's political enemies. It's my intention to talk to my colleagues the next day or so and make an announcement this weekend on what my intentions are.
BERMAN: Are you shifting?
QUIGLEY: Obviously, the needle is moving. It was never a question of whether or not this president was fit for office. He is not. It was never a question whether or not the president abused his powers. He has. It is a question, as the speaker of the House has pointed out, what is the most effective way to deal with this Constitutional crisis. And we have seen in the past that efforts moving toward impeachment have backfired. Obviously, we don't have the votes in the Senate, but there are many other thoughts in play here. What is the, possibly the only way to get all the documents that are
necessary to determine whether or not the president of the United States has committed a crime? If the courts are way too slow and if the president of the United States continues to obstruct, we may have no choice.
BERMAN: So is it that, or what did Robert Mueller say, or did he say anything yesterday that has caused you to rethink your position? And I hope I'm accurately portraying where you are right now. You weren't for impeachment yet, but it sounds like you're thinking about it and might move over the next few days.
QUIGLEY: I think what the president was saying is I didn't spend two years writing this report for the Special Counsel and the president of the United States to misrepresent it, redact it, and attempt to hide it from Congress and the American public. And then he moves forward at the exact same time to continue the obstruction that the Special Counsel talked about.
So it is extraordinarily difficult to restrain one's self. The irony of yesterday was the Special Counsel is an honorable person who follows the rule of law more than anyone I have ever witnessed. At the same time, in his moment of extreme fairness, he is protecting a president of the United States who has absolutely no concern for the rule of law, who is flouting it.
BERMAN: So you're saying protecting. Do you think Robert Mueller needs to come testify before Congress?
QUIGLEY: He does. I was a criminal defense attorney for 10 years, and I wrote memos and briefs for judges and for appellate court justices. And I couldn't just write a report or a brief, I had to come before them and answer questions. There is nuance, there is argument, there are a lot of other questions. What happened to the counterintelligence investigation? What was his thinking when he made these dozen or more criminal referrals to other jurisdictions? What else was he concerned about?
I have the greatest respect for the Special Counsel, but he doesn't get to decide whether or not he testifies before the American people, and he doesn't get to decide which questions he can talk about. He clearly can't decide that he's only going to talk about what's already in the report.
BERMAN: I want to read you something that the president of the United States just wrote, and this is in light of what Robert Mueller said yesterday, how he opened and closed his 10-minute statement talking about the seriousness and severity of the Russian attack on the U.S. elections. The president writes this morning "Russia, Russia, Russia, that's all you heard at the beginning of this witch-hunt hoax, and now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected." Now, far be it for anyone on earth to parse the language used by the president of the United States, however, by my reading of that, that's the first time the president has ever admitted that Russia helped to get him elected. Is that how you see it? [08:05:09] QUIGLEY: It is, but wait 10 minutes, he can say something
else. I don't think the American public can take anything the president says about the Russian attack on our democratic process seriously, because, again, wait a few minutes, it will change, whatever benefits him the most.
I think it is important to register with the American people that that was the second major aspect of the Special Counsel's discussion yesterday. That was a widespread attack, and it's going to come back. Director Comey said the Russians will be back. DNI Coates has said they have never left. The threat is still there.
I'm the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds election security, and I promise you the bill that we're going to be moving forward with will make an extraordinary effort to defend this country. It is one of two things this Congress needs to do to address this issue, and it needs to happen soon because the election is coming soon.
BERMAN: Again, I just think the language is very interesting. I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. Maybe he didn't mean to say it, but it's the first time I've ever heard the president admit that Russia helped him win the White House.
Congressman, we talk about these 40 members of the House, the ones who were in Republican districts that won and helped flip the House to the Democrats. You are not one of them. You are in a Democratic safe seat. Do you hear from some of your colleagues, Democrats who are in less safe seats, that they may be beginning to reconsider whether or not impeachment is a viable option?
QUIGLEY: I think the needle is moving along all of those fronts. Obviously for each member the decision is important and it's more -- easier or more difficult for different reasons. So each of us has to make that own personal decision after researching and understanding the issue a little bit better, talking to their constituents and talking to leadership, frankly, about what the ramifications might be for the entire caucus.
BERMAN: How concerned are you about the polling, which seems fairly consistent, that the majority of the American people are not yet there?
QUIGLEY: And I understand that, and you can't get ahead of that. But I also understand that four months before Richard Nixon left office, the American people were pretty strong in polling that showed that he should not resign and the Watergate investigation has taken too long. I think we need to listen to our constituents and talk about the issue, understand the issue, and make a decision that's right for the American people overall.
BERMAN: Congressman Mike Quigley from Illinois, we look forward to hearing from you, maybe this weekend. Give us a call and let us know when you make that decision. Appreciate you being with us this morning.
QUIGLEY: Thank you so much.
CAMEROTA: Joining us to talk about all this, we have Bianna Golodyrga, CNN contributor, David Chalian, CNN political director, and Jeffrey Toobin, former federal prosecutor and chief legal analyst. Guys, great to have you here in studio.
The needle is moving, we just heard him say that several times, and, in fact, the needle has moved for other lawmakers. More are joining the ranks of calling for impeachment now. We just had Governor Hickenlooper on. His position is different this morning. It's very fascinating to me, David, that Robert Mueller in his lack of pizzazz kind of way just speaking out loud has moved the needle for people, because a lot of that was in his report.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: This was the audio book version of his report. He basically was reading word-for-word from it. But pictures and sound, that makes an actual difference into the political climate, there is no doubt about that.
What I thought was to interesting about Representative Quigley about the needle moving was also this desire to consult with his colleagues. He seems to be suggesting that there is an active conversation going on right now among House Democrats, because the one person the needle hasn't moved for yet is their leader, the Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But watching her separate out, is the needle moving in just sort of a noise way out there or is the needle moving in some way that I need to change my approach to how I've been handling this situation thus far, that is the calculation we are all waiting to hear.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: I think Congressman Quigley also contributed to a bit of mythology that is now becoming more pervasive, which is that Congress will get access to more documents and more witnesses if they call it an impeachment investigation, not an oversight investigation.
CAMEROTA: That's not true?
TOOBIN: I don't think that is true. Remember, there have been two court cases so far about the tax returns and about the Deutsche Bank records. Congress won both those cases so far. I expect they will continue to win those cases. So the idea that you need an impeachment investigation I just don't think adds that much. Plus even if Congress uses the impeachment investigation to go to court, it's still going to go to court, and it's still going to be delayed by the president either way. So this idea that, well, the reason to push an impeachment investigation is we'll get more access, I just don't think is true.
[08:10:04] CHALIAN: But might it add political weight? I wonder if in the context of an impeachment inquiry calling Mueller, let's say, to testify in that context versus a House Judiciary Committee meeting or what have you, if there is the context of an impeachment inquiry, is there a bigger political weight to try to make the case and move the American public? I don't know the answer, but I wonder if that's part of their --
BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Mueller also didn't say that he wouldn't testify, right. He said he would not like to.
CAMEROTA: He said he would prefer not to.
GOLODRYGA: He would prefer not to, and if it were up to him that that would be the last you would hear from him. But even in those eight minutes, again, nothing new came out but so much changed. Just hearing, first of all, for so many Americans it is the first time that they heard Mueller say -- because many of them didn't read the report -- for Mueller to say if we could conclusively prove that the president didn't commit a crime, we would have said that. He said that, and that was powerful. And you saw two presidential hopefuls then come out and call for impeachment because of that. So even if he doesn't add anything more than just come out and read from his report or at least defer back to his report, that is a lot more powerful than just reading from a 400 plus page report.
BERMAN: And Mike Quigley there just made clear that he wants to hear from the president, thinks he should hear from Robert Mueller.
GOLODRYGA: And by the way, he even thanked the Attorney General for releasing the majority of the report. So if Congress -- I agree with you, if they're pursuing to get the full report, if they're trying to get grand jury testimony, they may be barking up the wrong tree. They should be focused on, a, getting Mueller to testify even though he doesn't want to, and there were other witnesses who Congress still hasn't heard from that played key roles throughout this report.
BERMAN: Look, no privilege, period, full stop. Corey Lewandowski has got zero.
TOOBIN: And pursuing Don McGahn, too, I just don't see a court drawing a major distinction between an impeachment investigation and oversight investigation.
BERMAN: Can I bring people up to speed here. The president has now walked out of the White House, he is speaking to reporters, it's a taped turn around. We will tell you when we know what he says. We imagine he will comment on what happened yesterday. Why do we think that? Because he's already writing about it extensively on Twitter, saying things that are not true. Saying if Robert Mueller could have charged me he would have -- no. Sorry.
CAMEROTA: That's what Robert Mueller said.
BERMAN: Saying if Robert Mueller wanted to charge me or found anything, he would have charged me, which is the opposite of that Mueller said.
And then, not to harp on this, but the president did write Russia disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected, which, Bianna, to my reading is the first time the president has said, whether he meant to or not, or admitted that Russia helped get him elected.
GOLODRYGA: In not so many words Vladimir Putin said the same thing. In Helsinki he said yes, I wanted President Trump to win. Prior to that he said I can't help it if some great Russian patriots decided to do some computer hacking and what have you. So in his own way Vladimir Putin said this did, in fact, happen. I wanted President Trump to win. Why? Because so that we could work better together.
CAMEROTA: I appreciate your diagraming of the sentences of Twitter. It's not easy.
CHALIAN: That tweet comes a long way from a 400 pound guy on his bed in New Jersey. That's a different assessment of what went on.
TOOBIN: But I also think, again, Congressman Quigley was right. The president could change his mind in the next tweet. He very likely if asked directly would say I've seen no proof that Russia helped me.
GOLODRYGA: Can I say, imagine a world where we would have first heard what we heard yesterday from Robert Mueller instead of what we heard from Bill Barr? Bill Barr, you can't overstate how significant it was that he controlled the narrative and he controlled the interpretation of this report. Had Bob Mueller come out and said those exact same words the day or two or three after that report came out, I think we would be in a completely different situation.
CAMEROTA: Absolutely. And that is the shame of how Bill Barr misrepresented what was in there, because that was the first bite of the apple, that's what people first understood, and now it's hard to unwind that tape and redo it.
GOLODRYGA: Right. And now there is a war of words it seems, or at least they're trying to present a united front, the Special Counsel and the Justice Department, but it's really hard to decipher. I heard you last night, you said you know English very well, you couldn't quite understand what that statement was from the special prosecutor and the Justice Department.
TOOBIN: Just because we don't want to send viewers screaming from their televisions, there was a statement issued last night jointly by the Justice Department and the Special Counsel that was so incomprehensible and so baroque in its triple negatives, where they were trying to pretend that they were agreeing with each other, but the substance of it was --
BERMAN: It was about whether or not Robert Mueller was depending on the guidance from the Office of the Legal Counsel not to bring charges. And it was a discrepancy over word choice. And it doesn't matter. The bottom line is Mueller made clear it was absolutely because of that guidance that he didn't even consider charges. And Bill Barr muddied the waters as much as he could really, and that's crystal clear.
CAMEROTA: Why is Robert Mueller bending over backwards to still be in good favor with Bill Barr? He did that in his eight minutes yesterday in front of the cameras. Why is he doing that?
TOOBIN: I think he is an institutionalist. He is someone who believes in the institution of the Department of Justice, he recognizes he was an employee of the Department of Justice. I think in general, he has respect and admiration for Barr.
Remember, he also wrote two letters complaining about what Barr has said, so it's not like he has rolled over completely, but, you know, Mueller is not a bomb thrower.
BERMAN: Can I tell you -- it's still an asymmetrical fight between Robert Mueller and everyone else involved here because the president we're getting a readout now, we will show you the tape shortly, is continuing to attack Robert Mueller and say that Mueller is conflicted somehow in his findings.
And again, we're not going to replay the language, the difference between Barr and Mueller on that issue. I do think there is an issue where there was a clearer difference which is significant, who now gets to decide this and what Mueller wants. I just want to read what Bill Barr said in his four-page summary, which as you noted, was Barr controlling the message.
Barr said: The special counsel's decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the attorney general to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime.
Mueller says the opposite. Mueller says the Constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing, that would be Congress and that's where we are this morning. That's a much more clear example of where Mueller is splitting from Barr.
CHALIAN: No doubt about it. He thinks Barr made the wrong call by Barr and Rosenstein coming in on top of him and saying we're clearing the president of obstruction here, too. Mueller clearly believes -- he put ten episodes of evidence of that forward for Congress to adjudicate that. That's where presidents are held to account. So that's a clear difference.
John, you had mentioned the part of the tweet where the president said for the first time that Russia helped him get elected.
CAMEROTA: He is just talking about it now.
CAMEROTA: He heard John.
CHALIAN: We can't also forget -- you gave a reference to this, but this line in here where the president says no -- Mueller didn't find obstruction, either. I mean, that's just flat out false. That is not at all -- the president of the United States is saying Mueller didn't find obstruction. That is not what Mueller has said.
GOLODRYGA: Barr presented a case where there is a binary choice, you either indict or you don't and move on. That is not where Mueller sees this. Mueller sees this in the situation being I did not have that option. If we could have cleared the president of any wrongdoing, we would have. We did not and thus it falls upon Congress.
And Barr even in his testimony before Congress said he disagreed with Mueller's theory on how things stand right now. So I think Mueller is not going to want to answer those questions, it's why we didn't hear him take any questions he had yesterday, but you see a clear line of difference between these two men.
CAMEROTA: Mueller said yesterday I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation. So that's more than just I don't want to. I mean, that suggests that he might fight something if he had a subpoena. He doesn't think that it's appropriate in his role to go farther.
What do you think?
TOOBIN: I just think that's so wrong. I mean, Justice Department officials testify before Congress all the time, particularly about policy matters and sometimes about individual cases.
Just, again, Representative Quigley said, what happened to the counterintelligence investigation? Did you participate in it? Are there facts that we need to know about that?
That is a very important question. What was Russia's role in the 2016 election, more broadly defined? Mueller should answer that question and he has every ability to do so. He doesn't want to. Do you know what? Too bad.
GOLODRYGA: It seems like Mueller does not want to make this political which is why we hadn't heard from him for two and a half years.
CAMEROTA: Too late.
GOLODRYGA: He has made it political throughout this entire process and I think words do matter. One, you heard Mueller think the integrity and talk about the integrity of those who worked on this investigation, I think that was a rebuttal to the president's two and a half year assault on these 18 angry Democrats and the FBI in general.
This was Mueller saying that wasn't the case, but by not speaking I think Mueller is saying I don't want to be political. He's already been dragged into this.
BERMAN: And the president is attacking Robert Mueller as we speak on the South Lawn as he is leaving. We're getting that tape turned around, we will play it for you as soon as it comes in. As we said, much more on that ahead.
As we said, the president has just left the what U.S., he is speaking with reporters right now. We will bring you that, next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [08:23:35] BERMAN: So, at this moment, President Trump is attacking the special counsel Robert Mueller on the South Lawn of the White House, insisting that Mueller is conflicted after Mueller declined to clear him of a crime. We will bring you that tape as soon as we get it. We do have snippets of the transcript which we will read to you.
Back with us now, David Chalian, Bianna Golodryga, Jeffrey Toobin. And also joining us, David Gregory, CNN political analyst.
The president cleared something up after before tweeting, raising questions whether or not he was admitting that Russia helped him get elected, he was asked directly, did Russia help you get elected? He says Russia did not help me get elected president, I got me elected. Didn't help me at all.
And, David Gregory, the president also called Robert Mueller a true never Trumper, which is the first time I believe I've heard Donald Trump say that about the special counsel.
DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you've got a sad contrast between somebody in Robert Mueller who has conducted himself professionally and with integrity as a patriot, and the president who in his pet u lens I think is doing more to move the needle toward getting Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings than anyone else, which we have to refined ourselves there wouldn't have been a special counsel if the president hadn't brought this on himself. So that is this lack of self-control that our president of the United States displays on a near daily basis.
Again, the notion -- it's not really worth defending because it doesn't make any sense.
[08:25:04] But I think hearing the president's reaction certainly belies whatever measured reaction there was from the White House yesterday. This is his true colors. He just wants to fight and fight all the time and now I think you have to ask yourself whether there will be more momentum toward getting Mueller to testify, whether he wants to or not.
CHALIAN: Although this is part of that goading that Nancy Pelosi talks about, right? This notion so it may also help her political argument for the moment with her caucus. See what he's doing? He's trying to goad us into impeachment.
CAMEROTA: I mean, the president has been speaking now for 15 minutes to reporters, he is on his way to Colorado for an Air Force Academy event.
I don't know if it's worth dissecting. I think today we are past it. I mean, we know that he doesn't like Robert Mueller, we know he didn't like the investigation, that he doesn't think that Russia interfered. We know he thinks some of this is a hoax.
And so, what has happened, I think, today and where the needle has moved as we've heard so much on the program today is that somehow Democrats feel that it's framed differently or feel that the wind is in their sales today. The president is reading the same old script that he has been for the past two careers but somehow because, again, in Robert Mueller's very lack of pizzazz way they heard something different that gave them added momentum yesterday.
TOOBIN: I was just thinking about what you said about, you know, is it worth listening to what the president is saying on the lawn. I mean, you know, what is our job? Because, I mean, he's lying constantly on the lawn, saying that Mueller was a never Trumper, saying that Russia didn't help him get elected, you know, over and over again.
One job of journalism is to tell the truth when public figures lie, but on the other hand how many times can we do this? Do we have to do this every time? I mean, I struggle with that point. The question you're raising.
But -- I mean, it's outrageous that he is lying so consistently and publicly on the same subjects over and over again.
GOLODRYGA: But keep in mind what we heard yesterday from Mueller was nothing new other than we heard his voice, right? He did not move or change his views from what we saw in the Mueller report.
The president, however, six weeks ago when the Mueller report came in after Bill Barr gave his four-page summary of his interpretation of it was asked whether he thought Mueller was an honorable man. He said yes. He thought he was vindicated by what Bill Barr had interpreted from the report, I'm not sure the president had read the report.
But just those eight minutes from Bob Mueller yesterday, just reading his version of a brief summary of his report has now completely irritated the president to the point that he's now calling him for the first time a never Trumper.
CHALIAN: Who absorbs -- television coverage and picture and sound in ways more than President Trump.
GOLODRYGA: And he understands the power of it.
CHALIAN: Exactly, without a doubt.
BERMAN: And now, Robert Mueller has said it out loud, said that, you know, I didn't even consider charging the president with a crime because I couldn't, but in no way am I clearing him of a crime. The president is saying something completely opposite. He's sort of misrepresenting -- directly misrepresenting what Mueller said yesterday.
There is also another bit of news in what the president said. There is this development overnight first reported by the "Wall Street Journal" that someone in the White House reached out to the Navy to try to get them to hide somehow the USS John McCain, which is a naval destroyer stationed in Japan. The people in the White House didn't want the president to see this naval vessel which is named after the former -- late senator, his father and grandfather when he was speaking in Japan. The president was just asked about that. He said, I don't know what
happened. He said he wasn't involved. He does say he was angry at John McCain because he killed healthcare reformat one point.
The president said somebody did it because they thought I didn't like him. Somebody in the White House asked to obscure the vessel because I didn't like him.
CAMEROTA: Where did they get that impression?
GREGORY: Yes, right.
BERMAN: And then he also said they were well-meaning. Whoever did this in the White House, David Gregory, was well-meaning, so defending the action to obscure this naval vessel.
GREGORY: What a snowflake President Trump is. Really? He's going to be triggered by the sight of a navy destroyer with a political adversary's name. Is that -- I mean, it's just -- this is so absurd.
Of course, how did they get that impression? Because the president has spoken publicly in such horrible terms about Senator McCain. So, it's no mystery. Can you imagine working for President Trump and trying to anticipate his moods and what he would be so upset about?
I want to go back to what we also have on the table more generally because I think it bears repeating that in Robert Mueller, President Trump should be thankful in what he got. He got a full blown investigation that was very tough and he had somebody with the integrity to stand up in the face of attacks and say, we don't want to do something that's unfair to a sitting president and not allow him to be able to challenge evidence against him.
That's the institutions of our government working properly even when we have an individual who has the office who doesn't appreciate it.
CAMEROTA: Such a great point. It could have gone so differently had it not.