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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) is Interviewed About Mueller's Testimony, on Impeachment, on Russia's Election Threat; Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello Resigns from Office; Robert Mueller Testifies before Congress; Analysts Examine Impact of Mueller Testimony on Investigations into President Trump. Aired 8-8:30a ET
Aired July 25, 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] RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very soon after the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello, which, by the way, won't be effective immediately. It will be on August 2nd. But it was a surreal scene yesterday. We were able to witness the moment when the announcement came, and there were thousands and thousands of people here. They all erupted into cheers, they were singing, they were dancing, incredibly elated.
And we should remind our viewers that people have been protesting for 12 days, and it took 15 days from the very first time the governor apologized for participating in that secret chat in which him and 11 of his closest aides say things that are very racist and homophobic and very offensive to many people here in Puerto Rico. And so now it is not the end of the situation because Puerto Rico still has to go through a transition period after the governor's resignation is effective on August the 2nd. Presumably the secretary of justice, Wanda Vazquez, will be sworn in as the next governor of Puerto Rico. But that's something that cannot be taken for granted.
Now, this is happening because the secretary of state has already resigned, and Puerto Rico is also going through a difficult situation. First of all, it's recovering from hurricanes Maria and Irma who hit this island on 2017, and it's also immersed in a deep financial crisis. John, back to you.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: I'll take it, Rafael, because I have a question for you. So Rossello's potential replacement, Wanda Vazquez, is facing some possible problems of her own. What are those?
ROMO: Yes, there was an ethic investigation. She was the target of this investigation. She was cleared, but it is no secret to people here on the island that the relationship between her and the president of the Senate, and they would have to work together to make this government work, is not the best it's ever been. And so they have to build together a new government. Many of the members of Rossello's cabinet have already resigned, and there are as many as 12 vacant positions. So that's the open question. If the relationship is bad already, how are they going to be able to work together for the benefit of Puerto Rico and the people who live here on the island, Alisyn and John? JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Rafael Romo for us on the streets of San
Juan. Obviously dramatic developments overnight. What will happen today? Please stand by there, keep us posted.
We're going to turn now to Robert Mueller's testimony. The big question here in Washington this morning, what happens now? Joining us now, two men who know what it's like to be in the hot seat. Andrew McCabe, former FBI acting director who was fired by President Trump two days before he was set to retire. He is a key figure in the investigation that led to the Mueller report. And John Dean, formerly a Nixon White House Counsel, the star witness in the Watergate hearings. He is now a CNN contributor. John, let me start with you. So what changed? We heard from Robert Mueller yesterday. What's different this morning?
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: First of all, I'm most struck with the fact Trump's mantra is in deep trouble. No collusion, that was certainly shown there is collusion. While Mueller might have been very reticent in wanting to talk about the details, he certainly did eliminate the fact that there wasn't collusion, as well as obstruction. He certainly knocked down the obstruction claims. So I think that's one of the things he's done.
It has to have its impact. I think I disagree with a lot of journalistic take that this is not going to do what the Democrats want. Most people haven't even heard of this story. The 97 percent of America that has not read the report, I think they're going to hear for the first time what's in that report, certainly the highlights, because I think it's been very effective exchanges when the leading questions like Nadler's or Adam Schiff's statements, the initial ones, as it wore on, it didn't hold up quite as well.
CAMEROTA: Well, we want to play one of those moments, John Dean, and get your reaction to this. This is where he was asked about the president actually being charged after he leaves office. So listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you charge the president with a crime after he left office?
ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPECIAL COUNSEL: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You believe that he committed -- you could charge the president of the United States with obstruction of justice after he left office?
MUELLER: Yes, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: OK, he answered those quite quickly and unequivocally.
DEAN: And that was one of the Republican members of the committee who I don't think expected that answer. I don't think he knew what answer he was going to get.
[08:05:02] It happened to be one of the best -- I think it was one of the ace questions that came up yesterday, that the trouble this man is in once he loses the protections of the presidency.
BERMAN: Just to be clear, Robert Mueller yesterday did confirm once again that he did not see enough evidence to charge conspiracy. He was asked about the difference between collusion and conspiracy, and at one point that got muddy there, but he didn't want to talk about the idea of collusion, which he says is not a term that is used or important here.
Andy McCabe, I want to get your take and were we are this morning. Josh Gerstein of "Politico" has noted in the past Democrats have looked or hoped maybe Robert Mueller would give them some holy grail to take the next step. Well, he's not going to do that. Democrats in Congress, they're the ones who have to make a choice about what they want to do with this. Do you think this made their choice easier?
ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER DEPUTY FBI DIRECTOR: Well, I certainly hope so, John. I think you're absolutely right. Both in his report and in his testimony yesterday, Director Mueller teed up a very hard choice for Congressional Democrats. I think he walked as close as humanly possible to the edge of saying this conduct clearly qualified as obstruction. He's not going to tie off that package for them. He's not going to draw that conclusion. He did everything he could to avoid doing that yesterday.
But the facts are what they are. It was an extraordinary day to listen to a senior esteemed investigator detail again and again, mostly obviously relying on the terms of the report, facts and behavior that lay out a clear pattern of obstructive activity on the part of the president. It was a remarkable thing to hear, and something that it's almost impossible to imagine being said by any other president we're familiar with in the modern time.
CAMEROTA: Andy McCabe, I just want to steak with you for one more second, because we had spoken to you earlier in the week, and you had been involved in helping in the past to prepare Robert Mueller for some of the these briefings, and you talked about the impeccable preparation that he went through, and reams of briefing books, et cetera. And look, his performance has been so dissected over the past 16 hours I don't want to engage in too much of it, but only because you've been there, before and after, just want to know what you saw in terms of his preparation.
MCCABE: Yes, Alisyn, I don't doubt that he went through that same sort of preparation this time. But you have to remember that this was a very different appearance than anyone, certainly that I've ever been involved helping Director Mueller get ready for. I'm quite sure this is the first time he's testified after having already provided a 400- page statement, essentially, to the world. So it's pretty clear to me that he did not want to take any chance of anyone from either side mischaracterizing or summarizing his report and his prior statement in any way differently than he had presented in the report. So I feel like he went into it with a unbelievably high degree of
caution. You could see from the way he answered a question, he won't agree to a single thing unless it was a direct quote from the report itself. He asked repeatedly for the cites that people were referring to. I think he was just, you could say, overly cautious about not wanting to change any of the phrasing from the way it appeared in the report.
BERMAN: Andy, can I ask you, because when you look that key facts, the things that came out of yesterday, and Alisyn has been reading this all morning. I'll take over and do it right now. It came out yesterday, Robert Mueller confirmed, that the president, then candidate Trump, welcomed Russian interference and then lied about it. Generally, Trump's written answers were untruthful. Trump, the encouraging of WikiLeaks during the campaign was problematic, and he went onto say that's an understatement, that he was not exonerated from obstruction. He fears, Robert Mueller does, that accepting help is the new normal, and he was not seeking a job as FBI director as the president has falsely claimed.
My question to you is, again, this morning, if all of those things are not enough to push the Democrats toward impeachment, does that frustrate you? As someone who was in the middle of it all and someone who is now looking for Congress to take action, is it frustrating to you that you can have that list there and have it not necessarily be enough?
MCCABE: It's baffling to me, John. From my own experience at the very beginnings of this investigation we confronted some very hard choices, choices that we knew would have negative repercussions on our organization and on us personally, and we made those choices anyway because it was our job and duty to do so.
[08:10:9] I feel strongly that that's the same position Congress is in now, and they should step up to the plate and do their job. It doesn't mean that the president will be removed from office or should be removed from office or will be impeached, but it is absolutely clear to me that the time has come for Congress to pursue a dedicated impeachment inquiry. I think it would solidify their position legally as they begin the process of going into court to fight over access to witnesses, and it would provide a more coordinated and coherent approach to having other witnesses come in and testify.
CAMEROTA: John Dean, I think it's fair to say that this was not the blockbuster hearing that some Democrats had hoped for. It was not like yours when you testified during Watergate. And so when -- in your experience, the snap assessments right afterwards sometimes change over the next days and weeks. And when the smoke clears, where do you think we'll be?
DEAN: Well, I think what's going to happen is there will be further hearings. I think McGahn will testify. I think Lewandowski will testify. I think the hearings or the investigation is ongoing. So I don't look at this as even the beginning or the end, and things are very much in progress. I think the president has some serious problems. So this isn't the last chapter. BERMAN: I will say Andy McCabe, one of the things we heard from
Republicans yesterday was thanking the Attorney General William Barr for his investigation into the origins of the investigation, talking about U.S. Attorney John Durham who's also investigating this, to an extent foreshadowing what might come. Do you from your position worry, then, that the narrative here -- now that Robert Mueller has testified there aren't a lot more bullets in the chamber for Democrats here unless they get Don McGahn soon, which isn't going to happen, that the narrative and the control over it might shift to William Barr?
MCCABE: There's no question the Republicans would like to the narrative to shift in that direction. That's exactly what we saw from them yesterday. And I think what for me was one of the more frustrating moments of the director's testimony, he really didn't really push back on many of those false narratives or misrepresentations of fact that you heard, and the conspiracy theories and other things that the Republicans laid out there yesterday.
As far as the investigation of the origins of the investigation -- I can't believe I just said that -- if it's a legitimate, fact-based, and legally-based inquiry into where this investigation came from, that is not something I worry about because I'm absolutely confident in the work that we did and the necessity we had to take the steps we did to investigate whether or not the president had engaged in a federal crime or was a threat to national security.
I think that 400-page report is essentially the best answer to the question of why was this investigated. Well, now, we see reams and reams of conduct that leads right in both those directions. So from that perspective, I don't worry about it.
If it becomes a bit of political theater, as most things seem to do these days, then that could be certainly corrosive and distracting to the American people who were keen enough and interested enough to tune in yesterday to find out exactly what the president and his associates have been doing.
CAMEROTA: John Dean, we're almost out of time, but final word. You think the next thing we see is the court compelling Don McGahn to testify?
DEAN: I do. I don't think the courts are necessarily a friendly forum for the committee. They tend to stay out of political disputes and try to let Congress and the executive branch work that out. However, when they find it necessary, they do step in. And this total defiance of subpoenas is just extraordinary. And I think the courts won't like that. For example, during Watergate the Senate and the House never got the Nixon tapes. They only got them through the prosecutor. So they weren't particularly helpful during Watergate. But here it's a very different situation. And they're aware of what's going on.
BERMAN: Well, it's July. What month? What month do you think the courts will take definitive action here?
DEAN: I think the courts are in process right now. I would say it could take eight months.
BERMAN: This is well past the initial primaries in the presidential election. There could be a Democratic nominee by that time.
DEAN: It could go right into the election.
CAMEROTA: John Dean, Andrew McCabe, thank you very much for all of your experience in these matters.
Another legal setback for the Trump administration, a federal judge has blocked their effort to dramatically limit asylum seekers from Central America by forcing them to apply for asylum outside of the U.S. The California judge ordered the Trump administration to keep accepting asylum claims. Human trafficking victims or those denied asylum elsewhere would have been allowed to apply for U.S. asylum.
The White House has just released a statement slamming the judge's decision as, quote, tyranny of a dysfunctional system that lets a judge dictate immigration policy.
BERMAN: So, President Trump has vetoed three bills aimed at blocking emergency arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the Arab United Emirates. They would replenish parts of the Saudi arsenal lawmakers say has been used against civilians in Yemen's civil war. The White House says the weapon sales are crucial to protect against the growing threat from Iran. The Trump administration is taking heat for not confronting the Saudis over the murder of "The Washington Post" journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
CAMEROTA: A French daredevil's bid to cross the English channel on his jet powered flyboard has failed. CNN affiliate BFMTV says Frankie Zapata fell in the water with his flyboard while landing on a refueling platform midway through the attempt. That is pretty impressive there, John.
The French media reports he was around 11 miles away from the finish. Zapata was hoping this would be his longest flight after his impressive cameo at Paris' Bastille Day parade.
BERMAN: I mean, who have ever thought that flying across the English Channel in one of those things might be a bad idea.
CAMEROTA: He's going to try again. Don't count him out.
BERMAN: Emmanuel Macron, he's going to like it. You could see him nodding right there.
The big question for Democrats this morning, what next? What will they do with this testimony they heard yesterday from Robert Mueller? There is one man who has a big say in this. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[08:21:01] REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): You will not tell us whether the president should be impeached nor did we ask you since it's our responsibility to determine the proper remedy for the conduct outlined in your report. Whether we decide to impeach the president in the House or we do not, we must take any action necessary to protect the country while he is in office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: That's House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff delivering his closing remarks after Robert Mueller's testimony and addressing a major question facing Democrats. Should they pursue impeachment?
Now, CNN has learned the Democrats debated the issue behind closed doors after the hearings. We were told it was a robust discussion.
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff, the chair of the intelligence committee.
Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for being with us. Know you've been busy.
What's different this morning? We heard from Robert Mueller yesterday before Judiciary and your committee. So, what's changed?
SCHIFF: Well, I think for the first time, people got to hear from the man who did the investigation himself. His work was not filtered by Bill Barr who misrepresented it. It wasn't filtered by the president who certainly misrepresents it on a daily basis.
But this is guy who spent the last two years of his life, has served the country his entire life talking, about that work and laying out how unethical, unpatriotic, criminal these actions are to willingly accept help from a foreign government to obstruct justice. So I think hearing that from the man who did the work was powerful.
BERMAN: The words you just used that -- those were your words, though. Those were not necessarily his words. His words were typically -- yes, no, correct, if it's in the report, I agree with it.
SCHIFF: That's correct. To use that metaphor, yes, that's true.
He was a reluctant witness. We understood from the very moment he said he wasn't going to come in that he wanted the ten minutes to be his statement that, you know, he was going to be a very recalcitrant witness and he was. But nonetheless, getting him to acknowledge the false claims exoneration by the president, getting him to describe just how troubling the president's conduct was.
And even though he was reluctant as you can imagine to provide the sound bite, the president is immoral, the president is unpatriotic, that was the essence of what he had to say. And that has power.
Now, whether it will change the equation or not, I don't know. I was, you know, as you might recall, very circumspect about how much altitudes would change as a result of any hearing after the president's racist comments of the last two weeks. If they haven't moved people, I wasn't sure that anything Bob Mueller could say would. But nonetheless, I think it's important to get all these facts out to the public.
BERMAN: What happened at that Democratic Caucus meeting that as we understand was a robust discussion that concerned what to do with impeachment?
SCHIFF: Well, I don't discuss the contents of our caucus meetings but, look, we have members who feel, you know, passionately about this issue. I think we all do. We're all wrestling with it.
I think those that are ready to pull the trigger and say, let's begin the impeachment, feel their hand is even stronger after this hearing. I tried an impeachment case in the Senate about two years ago, a corrupt judge we convicted him. So I feel what's necessary to make that case. I have very little illusion getting a conviction in the Senate but there's another jury that I am more concerned about, and that's the jury of the American people. And I want to be sure if we head that down that road, that we have the case to make the American people.
BERMAN: Are you closer today than yesterday?
SCHIFF: Well, you know, I do think that Robert Mueller lived up to expectations, at least mine. He stuck to his report. That's what he said he was going to do.
So, I didn't go into the hearing expecting new facts.
BERMAN: What do you say about all the critics who say, oh, his performance was halting, he had trouble with the facts, he had trouble with the language? The president has been very critical of how's seen Rudy Giuliani. Is there any merit to that argument?
[08:25:02] SCHIFF: No. Yes, you know, the halting nature of his answers made questioning him a challenge. You know, as a former prosecutor, it meant that, you know, you take each witness as they come, and it meant it wasn't easy to get him to tell a narrative.
But what's more important than it style we saw of the witness is the substance. And the substance I think was just devastating.
BERMAN: The word you hear was optics. You're saying it wasn't about the optics.
SCHIFF: You know, for me it's not about the optics. For me, it's about, but what does this say about the president's conduct and what does it say what the Congress president will have to do about that --
BERMAN: What does it say about the president's conduct to you?
SCHIFF: Unethical, unpatriotic, wrong and criminal. BERMAN: All of those things, especially the last one, criminal, meet
the definition by my reading and I'm not saying I agree with your assessment, but what is impeachable.
SCHIFF: I think that's unquestionable the case. But that's what I think. Can we make the case to the country and does the country benefit going through an impeachment if it's going to be unsuccessful?
And we know in the Senate at least it would be unsuccessful. So I'm not there yet but I'm keeping an open mind and I may get there.
BERMAN: Let me read you what Dan Balz of "The Washington Post" wrote yesterday. The various of impeachment have also made it a challenging option given that Republican control of the Senate to the frustration of some Democrats. But other Democrats were advocating long before Mueller wrapped his investigation, that the party's focus should be on the 2020 election rather than impeachment.
That now is the only realistic course of settling the question of the future of Trump's presidency, Dan Balz writing there. 2020 is the answer, not impeachment.
SCHIFF: 2020 is unquestionably the only way he gets removed from office, so we can never lose sight of that. I have tried to put the political question out of my mind. That is does impeachment help us in 2020 or does it hurt us politically? Because I don't think it's the right question to ask.
But we need to be realistic and that is, the only way he's leaving office, at least at this point, is by being voted out. And I think our efforts need to be made in every respect to make sure we turn out our people.
But on the policy question, what's the best thing, what's the right thing for the country, should we put the country through an impeachment? I haven't been convinced yet that we should, and going through that kind of momentous and disruptive experience for the country I think is not something we go into lightly.
BERMAN: Some housecleaning notes about yesterday. Representative Krishnamoorthi had an exchange with Robert Mueller where the former special counsel seemed to indicate there was an ongoing FBI counterintelligence investigation still into the aspects of Russia.
Do you know what he's talking about?
SCHIFF: I do. I mean, this is one of the things we've been pressing to get information from the FBI, and we're getting some information, although it is halting. And that is this began as a counterintelligence investigation.
Mueller said basically when he picked it up he turned it into a criminal case where and the counter intelligence information was sent to the headquarters. We still don't know the full results of those counterintelligence leads. Were they followed up, were some of them dropped? Were there findings made? Are there people still serving in the administration that shouldn't
have security clearance? Are there steps we need to do to protect the country? That's what we're trying to find out.
BERMAN: Why hasn't Corey Lewandowski been called to testify before what I would assume is the House Judiciary Committee? That's not your problem directly, but as a member of the caucus, it is. He has no claim to privilege.
SCHIFF: No, he doesn't. And we had him testify in the Intel Committee and he essentially said, I'm not going to answer those questions, and we said, are you claiming privilege. He said, no, I'm essentially not going to do it because the White House doesn't want me to do it, and Republicans were just fine with that.
And that was, of course, the flaw with how the GOP ran their investigation. I think he should be called. He needs to be brought in. I think he's a very material witness on the obstruction of justice. So I would hope and expect that that's a priority.
BERMAN: There are Democrats who look and say, why haven't you done that? Already, there are Democratic activists frustrated with the pace of all this.
SCHIFF: Look, I'm frustrated with the pace of it. We are subpoenaing witness and testimony. We are having to go to court to enforce those subpoenas. That takes time. That's the whole reason why the Trump administration is obstructing this way.
But I do think we need to understand that if we declare we are now in the midst of an impeachment, it doesn't bring McGahn in tomorrow. We still have to go to court to force his testimony. It's not like that turns on some magic switch and all of a sudden Cory says, OK. We're still going to have to enforce this because the president has embarked on this maximal obstruction campaign of his, unprecedented in history.
We are winning in the courts but yes it is frustrating. The president obstructed justice and now he's obstructing Congress.
BERMAN: You throw these phrases around like the president obstructed justice and at the same time you say I'm not ready for an impeachment inquiry.