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President Trump Claims Complete and Total Exoneration After Special Counsel Finds No Evidence of Collusion; Rep. Gerald Connolly (D) Virginia Is Interviewed about President Trump's Collusion with Russia; President Trump: This Was An Illegal Takedown That Failed; DOJ: Mueller Did Not Find President Trump Conspired With Russia; CNN: House Judiciary Chairman Says Committee Will Call Attorney General William Barr To Testify. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired March 24, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:00] ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: The White House reaction to the Mueller report now being released, at least the principal findings.

Thank you so much for being with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Our breaking news coverage of the Mueller report continues with my colleague, Anderson Cooper.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. President Trump calls it a complete and total exoneration. Today Attorney General William Barr released his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report.

The investigation, and I'm quoting now from one passage Barr cited, "did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities." In other words as the president has insisted from the start there was no collusion.

As for obstruction of justice, the special counsel reached no conclusion. The attorney general saying that in his own judgment looking at the facts presented there's insufficient evidence to bring a criminal case against the president. He also included this passage from Robert Mueller, and I'm quoting, "While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

As for the president, he had this to say on the way home from Florida.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's a shame that our country had to go through this. To be honest, it's a shame that your president has had to go through this for -- before I even got elected, it began. And it began illegally, and hopefully somebody is going to look at the other side. This was an illegal takedown that failed. And hopefully, somebody is going to be looking at the other side.


COOPER: Well, unclear what that means for the future. What's very clear right now is that the president has just been vindicated in a very big way on a key allegation against him.

CNN's Pamela Brown has gotten some new reporting on what led up to it.

So I understand you have breaking news about discussions between Mueller and the Department of Justice about a subpoena for the president for a sit-down interview.

PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Anderson. We've learned that special counsel, his team and DOJ officials, top officials raised the specter of issuing a subpoena for President Trump for an interview and ultimately the decision was made not to move forward with such a significant investigative step of issuing a subpoena against a sitting president.

We know for months, Anderson, that Robert Mueller and his team have been asking for a sit-down interview with President Trump to the legal team, and the legal team simply wouldn't have it, said no. And they gambled that Robert Mueller would not issue a subpoena. And sure enough, that happened. But we are told there were these discussions, these sensitive discussions about whether they should issue a subpoena when it became clear that the president's legal team would not allow a sit-down interview with the president.

We are told that ultimately the decision was made that the merits and the evidence that they had didn't really justify issuing the subpoena beyond just DOJ protocol that you can't indict a sitting president, they decided there wasn't enough there. But certainly it makes you question, as you read Bill Barr's memo today, whether Robert Mueller said in his report to Barr that some of the president's behavior he could not be exonerated from, because he never got that sit-down interview to talk to him and understand his intent.

What is clear from reading the memo is that Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who Mueller had consulted with on the subpoena among other DOJ officials, didn't think that there was enough there, did not think that the president's actions that were laid out showed corrupt intent and that the conduct was obstructive -- Anderson.

COOPER: And we're already obviously seeing a substantial amount of pushback from Democrats over these findings.

BROWN: Yes. And no surprise there, that they're coming out and they're saying they need to see the full report, there are now more questions than answers particularly as it pertains to obstruction because the report cites that Mueller said that there was this behavior that was questionable even though Bill Barr said -- essentially cleared him and Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi released this statement today saying, "Mr. Barr's public record of bias against the special counsel's inquiry, he is not a neutral observer and is not in a position to make objective determinations about the report."

And they're looking at the fact that he was handpicked by President Trump as his attorney general. And as you'll remember, he wrote this memo before he was confirmed as attorney general, basically saying that there shouldn't even be an obstruction probe, that it should have never happened in the first place. And we're also hearing from the head of the House Judiciary Committee who also is not satisfied. Here's what he's had to say today.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: His conclusions raise more questions than they answer, given the fact that Mueller uncovered evidence that, in his own words, does not exonerate the president. We cannot simply rely on what may be a hasty partisan interpretation of the facts.


BROWN: So that is what Democrats are seizing on, Anderson, because as we know Bill Barr said today that Mueller's team concluded there was not collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

[20:05:02] But it's a little more complicated when it comes to obstruction and that's what Democrats are honing in on. So now we wait and see, will they issue a subpoena to talk to Robert Mueller, issue a subpoena for the full report?

I can tell you from the White House, in covering the White House, lawyers there are bracing for a subpoena fight over the full report.

COOPER: And what's Attorney General Barr said about releasing the full report and the underlying evidence? Because that's two separate things.

BROWN: Yes. Yes.

COOPER: And certainly the underlying evidence is a lot -- going a lot farther in terms of releasing stuff than just the full report.

BROWN: Right. And the underlying evidence can be tricky because then you're dealing with grand jury testimony with potentially classified information. So he basically is reiterating what he has said previously, that he hopes to be as transparent as possible, release as much information as possible, while being mindful of the law and policy.

He did note that some of this -- the materials do have grand jury information and interviews and so forth that has to be taken into consideration, but he said he would consult with Robert Mueller and figure out how to release more information. In fact we have learned, Anderson, from a DOJ official that the process is already under way, Mueller's report is being scrubbed and the materials to see what can be released.

But no matter what, what is clear here, Anderson, is that Democrats on Capitol Hill are not going to be satisfied until they see the full report and underline documents and a federal judge may be the only person who can ultimately decide and make that public -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Pamela Brown, thanks very much.

The president is back at the White House tonight. Joining us is "Politico's" Andrew Restuccia, who was with the president on Air Force One.

Andrew, the president, his advisors, what was the mood like?

ANDREW RESTUCCIA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: It was pretty celebratory, to be honest. He -- his team was happier than I've seen them in quite some time. It was an interesting weekend at Mar-a-Lago because the president, you know, spent most of the time playing golf and hanging out with friends and being assured by his advisers and staff. Even before the report came out they were pretty confident that he would be vindicated.

And in the end, I mean, he was pretty thrilled. He went back to Mar- a-Lago at the end of the day and was briefed by his lawyers and they went through line by line Barr's letter. And we were told in Air Force One tonight that the president said this is very good, and that's a quote from him. So he's pretty happy.

COOPER: And what was -- do we know what the president was doing during the flight?

RESTUCCIA: Yes. He was -- so interestingly, we actually landed -- went into the cockpit and landed with the pilot at the end of the flight. It was a retiring colonel who he wanted to spend some time with. But during the flight he spent time with aides, Mulvaney and Dan Scavino, his social media director. And he was making calls to some of his allies, he's watching cable news as he always does. Yes, it was certainly a celebration, at least as far as I could tell.

COOPER: The remarks that the president made in Florida, do you know when that decision was made?

RESTUCCIA: It was pretty last minute. I think, you know, like all of this, from him being briefed on the report to getting in Air Force One, all happened within a span of less than two hours. So he -- they read through all of the report line by line and then, you know, in the motorcade, there was a last minute -- I think within, you know, 15 to 20 minutes, as we sprinted from the motorcade to under the wing of Air Force One and the president was waiting for the media to show up and he walked out and gave a speech that you all carried live.

COOPER: All right. Andrew Restuccia, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Want to go next to CNN's Abby Phillip at the White House.

So what is the mood at the White House like tonight?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you heard Andrew say, it's a celebratory mood here among Trump aides. You had his counselor Kellyanne Conway saying that this is the day that he won the 2016 election all over again.

This is a president who's been under a cloud of investigation for two years and that cloud has been lifted. And in many ways it's been lifted in a way that I don't think that even he expected. The conclusion is particularly that there was no collusion is really important to a president who has been repeating that ad nauseam for two years and the White House is essentially saying that on obstruction they didn't expect the Mueller investigators as prosecutors to exonerate the president but essentially by not finding enough evidence that there was obstruction, they believe that that is an exoneration of President Trump.

So a president who is extremely happy at this moment. But, Anderson, I think you should pay some attention to what he was telling reporters just before he left the White House. He said that it is a terrible thing that this happened to him. It's a terrible thing that it happened to many of his associates who are going to prison as a result of some of the investigations that came about because of this Mueller investigation.

This is not a president who is happy that Mueller is done. He is ready to kind of go back on the offense. He's saying this was a failed attempt to take his presidency down and he's not backing down from that. He is not talking about Russian interference more broadly. He's talking about how this was broadly unfair to him and unfair to all these people around him.

[20:10:01] They are also planning to use this as a cudgel in 2020 against Democratic candidates, saying that the Democratic Party has lied to the country for the last two years about what the Mueller investigation would ultimately find.

COOPER: And is this what he and his attorneys expected from these conclusions?

PHILLIP: Well, we've been hearing from sources close to the investigation -- I'm sorry, close to the president, close to the president's legal team that they haven't been expecting more indictments coming out of the Mueller probe. They actually believe that if the Mueller probe ended at this point, it would have ended without the president ever sitting down for an interview. And both of those things were viewed as very positive signs for President Trump.

The definitive nature of the letter on some of these points -- at least that's how they are presenting it -- I think is even better than they expected. Certainly the president's lawyers had hoped for the best. But they are coming out of this feeling like all of the questions that had been raised as a result of this probe left the president essentially unscathed from a legal perspective.

That being said, as I'm sure you will point out later in the show, there are a lot of other things happening outside of the Mueller investigation that they may need to worry about. But as far as the Mueller probe is concerned, it seems that this was better than they expected on a number of different fronts.

COOPER: And the president -- I mean, you talk about him using this as a cudgel, which is no doubt, you know, something that he would do and is certainly, you know, makes sense from that -- from his standpoint. He is already alluding to an investigation into the Russia investigation or into the other side. PHILLIP: Yes. This is going to be a big question tomorrow and the

days after. What is the president going to do now? He suggested that somebody ought to be looking into the other side. Who exactly is the other side? Well, for months he's been talking about the need for further investigation into Hillary Clinton, but also the president's allies have been talking about the Obama administration and the idea that the Russia probe, beginning under President Obama, was improper from the beginning. So is President Trump going to go there? Well, reporters who were traveling with the president did ask Hogan Gidley, the deputy press secretary, about that, and he said they haven't discussed it just yet.

But of course I'm sure President Trump is going to be hearing from his outside advisers, from members -- Republican members on Capitol Hill who have been beating those drums for months and those drumbeats are only getting louder.

One more thing, Anderson. There's a question about what does President Trump do now with all of those friends and advisers that I mentioned earlier, who were charged and who are facing jail time? Are pardons on the table? Well, you know, aides are saying it's too early to talk about that. But, again, tomorrow, the day after that, these are also big questions.

What is President Trump going to do now? And he certainly has the power to pardon but also potentially has the power to ask his Justice Department to look into some of these things that he alluded to in his conversation with reporters before leaving Florida earlier today -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Abby Phillip, thanks very much.

A big night for the president, and certainly a big night for the country, and a busy night for our political and legal team. Former federal prosecutor Shan Wu is with us who briefly represented Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign aide, who eventually pleaded guilty to charges in the Mueller probe. Shan is a CNN legal analyst as is Carrie Cordero, chief political analyst Gloria Borger is here, so if former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli and CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, a huge win for the president. I mean, there's no other way to see it.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: There's no other way to describe it. You know, collusion has been something that he has talked about incessantly. He has said no collusion and Robert Mueller, his great nemesis, has agreed with him about that. And that is an enormous --

COOPER: By the way, you know, we always like, she said the ad nauseam incessantly. Fair enough, if you are wrongly -- you know, if you are being accused of collusion and there was none and you say that there was none, it's fair that he was talking --

TOOBIN: Absolutely. And he said it I think by one count 185 times. That is something that, you know, was at the heart of this investigation. And he won. I mean, there is just no doubt about that.

On obstruction of justice, the story is more complicated and the result as described in this letter is frankly peculiar and not really something that was even contemplated by the regulations.

COOPER: So peculiar how?

TOOBIN: Because Robert Mueller was appointed because the political appointees in the Department of Justice, the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, had a conflict of interest because the target of this investigation was the president. So he was supposed to make the judgments about the president. Instead of doing that, he seems to have punted the decision over to the attorney general and the deputy attorney general.

It is not precisely clear the way the letter is written whether Mueller reached any more conclusions about whether the president should be indicted or not. It seems like --

[20:15:04] COOPER: It said it didn't -- did not exonerate him.

TOOBIN: It did not exonerate him but, you know, exactly what Mueller concluded about obstruction of justice is not clear from the letter. However, what's very clear is that Barr and Rosenstein took the evidence that Mueller had assembled over two years and in less than 48 hours said there's nothing to see here. There's no obstruction of justice. That I think --

COOPER: And Democrats are sort of crying foul on that because it does align with something that the Attorney General Barr had written in a letter before he became attorney general, which some Democrats say it was sort of an audition letter for him to become attorney general, which was about obstruction of justice.

TOOBIN: They're crying foul because of the previous letter. They're crying foul because Barr has an inherent conflict of interest, because he is an appointee of the president, and they're crying foul because it was such a cursory investigation after Mueller spent two years on the issue. So that's, you know, a lingering problem. But I don't think it should -- we should over emphasize that over the conclusion that the president and his team did not work with the Russians to win the --

COOPER: And, Gloria, I mean, the president was saying no collusion for years, certainly. And he was right, according to the special counsel.


COOPER: I know -- people are seeing this through the lens of their own politics.


COOPER: You know, Democrats are disappointed and upset. In truth, as Americans, this is a good thing.


COOPER: I mean, the -- the fact, according to the evidence, that the president had no collusion with Russians, who we know were involved in the election, that is a good thing.

BORGER: Well, and that is the clearest thing we see from Barr's letter today. I mean, it states unequivocally that the special counsel did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts. That is absolutely crystal clear. And it would be interesting to see why they took all those meetings and whether those things should be allowed to occur again in future presidential campaigns. And I think that's a great result for the country, for the president.

To what Jeffrey is saying, the question of obstruction still remains out there. And my question is, did Mueller kind of punt on it because he wasn't able to interview the president of the United States? And that goes to Pamela's reporting about the fact that there were discussions about this with Rosenstein. And they decided not to subpoena the president. Did that mean at the time that they thought that Rosenstein and maybe Mueller felt that there wasn't the evidence there to even warrant a subpoena fight?

This is something that the Democrats are going to want to get to the bottom of. They're going to want to see every single piece of paper about obstruction and I would say that in the end this was a huge, huge victory for the president's lawyers.

COOPER: Ken, I mean, if it was decided that Mueller felt there wasn't enough evidence to support a subpoena fight to get the president to talk, Democrats then can't really complain that much about the fact that the president wasn't interviewed for a sit-down interview.


COOPER: If there wasn't the evidence to support even a subpoena fight.

CUCCINELLI: Right. I agree with you, Anderson, 100 percent. And frankly, for the Democrats who want to say well, so what, we're going to press ahead, they are now in the eyes of average, ordinary Americans, not those of us who pay attention every day, but ordinary Americans going to look like sore losers in the political battle here. And of course, the president will overplay that on Twitter. But the reality is now what the Democrats do will look like a witch hunt because the only neutral arbiter, or close to it, that anybody could identify, would be Robert Mueller.

COOPER: Right.

CUCCINELLI: And he said there was nothing to proceed with and, as you said, Anderson, didn't even try to get the subpoena to interview the president. COOPER: Well, also, Ken, to your --

CUCCINELLI: Which the law is very clear in my mind.

COOPER: Ken, to your point --

CUCCINELLI: He would have gotten if he wanted it.

COOPER: To your point also, Ken, these are the Democrats who for months now have been extolling the praises of Robert Mueller and his independence.


COOPER: And his integrity.


COOPER: Against the president's attacks on Robert Mueller. So it's a little hard now or, you know, hypocritical for suddenly Democrats to say well, now we need to look at not only his final report, which that I can understand, but the actual original documents, the investigative documents, the interviews by FBI, we need to basically review his report because we no longer have confidence in him.

CUCCINELLI: Well, Anderson, when you compare that to what we are asking, you know, say, yesterday, last Friday night, well, gee, the president called this a witch hunt forever. Now does this hold up?

[20:20:06] And OK, so the president felt ill feelings toward this the whole time because he was innocent. And Mueller said he was innocent. So that's a lot more understandable than now the Democrats possibly flipping on their position and saying, no, Mueller didn't get it right. Now we're going to get it right, particularly when they've already -- they've done a ready, fire, aim approach out of Congress. They didn't wait for Mueller to finish. They just started their own and launched away and that's going to look really bad now.

COOPER: Carrie --


COOPER: I'm sorry. Shan, go ahead.

WU: I just have to say, it does not say that he's innocent. I mean, what's remarkable about the report is that it's so few quotes from Mueller and if you look at the quotes, like it's an amazing thing that Mueller of all people says, quote, "it does not exonerate the president." I mean, for him that's an equivalent of a James Comey kind of moment. There's no need for him to have said that. The whole letter, the lack of quotes raises questions. What else is there on collusion?

He says it does not establish. So what makes up the established? That's what really begs the question. What's really behind there? Because the quotes are so few. And of course as has been pointed out, on the obstruction point of view, I mean, Barr's previous views were tailor made for this. I mean, it's literally like his hypothetical, that came up. So it's really quite extraordinary how few quotes there are.

COOPER: And Carrie, just on the obstruction issue, do we know how much of Barr's thinking is impacted by the idea of well, if there's no criminal intent, if there's no crime, then there can be no obstruction of justice? That -- go ahead.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: His letter does include a statement that refers to that, that it was not dispositive but it certainly appears to have factored into his thinking. So I think that was one piece of it. Certainly his determination and the deputy attorney general's joint determination that there was not sufficient evidence to bring an obstruction case is based on their statutory interpretation.

What is curious is that he does include the quote from the special counsel that, although the special counsel's report does not conclude the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him. And so that's the piece that I think Congress that is most likely to latch on to, because they're going to want to understand what is the other information that does not exonerate the president. What made the special counsel include that in his report and then also why did the special counsel not make at least a recommendation to the attorney general about prosecution?

It would be appropriate for an attorney general to take a recommendation and then perhaps decide differently. But it is curious, and we don't know the answer, for why the special counsel decided not to make a recommendation.

COOPER: Jeff, I seem to remember having conversations with you about obstruction of justice, and that people can be obstruct justice even if there isn't an underlying crime.

TOOBIN: Absolutely. The law is completely clear on that. Just remember the Martha Stewart case. Martha Stewart was convicted of lying and obstruction of justice about insider trading. She was never charged with insider trading. It is often the case that an obstruction of justice charge will be added when someone is charged with an underlying crime. And it can be evidence in an obstruction of justice case.

But the idea that the president's lawyers said in an earlier interview on CNN and is certainly the implication of the attorney general's letter, that it's somehow impossible to be charged with obstruction of justice without being charged with the underlying crime, that's just -- I mean, it's not the law, it's Department of Justice policy, and it's just not true.

COOPER: Gloria --

CORDERO: One other point, Anderson.

COOPER: Sorry, go ahead. Yes. CORDERO: One other point. I don't believe for a second that the

attorney general made this decision in 48 hours. So I know we don't -- we'll have to do more investigation as to sort of how this played out. But to think that the attorney general received this report Friday evening and then made this substantive weighty statutory interpretation on Saturday and wrote the letter on Sunday just doesn't ring true to Department of Justice practice. So I think the more likely scenario --

COOPER: Why is that?

CORDERO: I think the more likely scenario is that he would have been briefed on the -- what was going to be in the report over some period of days, if not weeks, and that this decision was formulated before the actual issuance of this letter.

COOPER: So you're saying that why, because it's such a complicated legal issue, that he would need time to think about it or --

CORDERO: Because it's a substantial statutory issue. And he would have had to take some time to think about it. I mean, this is a major investigation that was going on for a period of two years. This was one of the two major pillars of this report that he's providing publicly and to the Congress, and so you would want to get it right at least from his perspective.

[20:25:02] And so I just -- I'll be curious as to how this plays out and whether he's asked to explain more about his decision-making process when he's called before Congress but sitting here tonight I just find it hard to believe that he would have made this decision in 48 hours.

COOPER: But, Shan, that doesn't -- is that neither here nor there? I mean, whether he got some advanced, you know, notice, the attorney general?


WU: Exactly, I --

CORDERO: Yes, I think it's fine.

COOPER: I'm sorry. Go ahead, Shan.

WU: No, I mean, I agree normally you would not make such a weighty decision so quickly but he already made up his mind. He knew what he thought about the obstruction analysis, and he made that very clear in his letter to Rosenstein.

Is it out of bounds for him to do that as the attorney general? Probably not. He is the attorney general. He can choose that. But it certainly is going to open questions as to what underlies that decision. And to me there's no question he already made up his mind about that aspect of it.

BORGER: Well, you know, I also have to ask the question, you know, Bob Mueller is kind of a black and white guy. He sees things very starkly. And for him to say something well, on the one hand, he didn't -- you know, there's no -- we can't conclude he committed a crime but he's not exonerated, you have to ask yourself, what's the back story here? And maybe, maybe, and Shan, you would know, and Carrie, you would know more about this.

Maybe the back story is that Mueller knew he wasn't going to be able to get the subpoena that he wanted, that they had had these informal discussions, as Pamela was reporting, and he knew he wasn't going to get it, and then maybe he disagrees with Barr on obstruction, but wasn't willing to put himself out there on it because he knew the attorney general would disagree.

COOPER: OK. Ken, I want to get your thought on that.

CUCCINELLI: No. No. Look, first of all, there's so many maybes there but had --



CUCCINELLI: Had they pressed for a subpoena to have face-to-face questioning of the president, they would have prevailed legally. They would have won that battle.

BORGER: I don't know.

CUCCINELLI: I don't think there's much doubt about that. I really don't. And so to then to bootstrap the idea that this means all these five different things, I think, is really reaching.

TOOBIN: Ken, I -- you know, it's funny. The president's lawyers spent months saying the exact opposite of what you're saying.

BORGER: Exactly. Exactly.

TOOBIN: That there is --

CUCCINELLI: Yes, but I am not one of the president's lawyers and as you know, Jeffrey, I frequently disagreed with those lawyers.

TOOBIN: I understand that but all I'm saying is that it is not a sure thing that the courts would have granted Mueller the right to question the president. I think, you know, you may be right. The United States versus Nixon precedent, you know, is relevant, although it's not exactly the same. But the idea that, oh, of course, Mueller could have gotten to talk to Donald Trump if he wanted to and just filed the subpoena, that's a very -- that's not really -- it was a complicated, lengthy, legal debate, legal fight that was avoided.

CUCCINELLI: Yes. I'm not suggesting it was simple but I definitely think they would have prevailed on that. I just -- and the speculation on the notion that they wouldn't so they didn't even try when they interviewed how many witnesses did they identify in the attorney general's letter? BORGER: I think they did try.

WU: Well, of course, we don't know.

CUCCINELLI: Five hundred or something?

WU: We just don't know.

CUCCINELLI: It's an enormous number.

BORGER: We don't know.

WU: We don't know. You know, as Gloria is pointing out, we don't know because there's nothing in there from Mueller. It's just a couple of quotes.

BORGER: Right.

COOPER: Right.

WU: So we don't know if he really did make a decision to punt? We don't know what else he said to the attorney general. We don't know that.

COOPER: So what --

WU: Because Barr chose not to put anything in.

COOPER: Yes. I mean, Carrie, just in terms of the actual report being released, there's grand jury testimony, I guess, in there that would have to be looked at carefully. I mean, there's a number of issues that would have to be looked at, right?

CORDERO: Right. So -- and I think they -- I do take the attorney general at his word that they're going to start that work already and they'll review the report for purposes of grand jury material, for purposes of whether or not -- there are ongoing investigations that were spun off from this major investigation. So they'll have to look at whether anything in the report would affect ongoing investigations, and then although I don't think it's in the attorney general's letter, there is a question over whether some things might be -- raise the issue of executive privilege.

But I did find it notable that he didn't -- I don't think he included that in the letter as a reason for delaying review of the report.

COOPER: And just -- I mean, Ken, am I being naive here in that, you know, I understand why Democrats are -- seem disappointed. I understand why obviously the president's supporters are elated. But just overall, the idea that, you know, if it is a fact that the president and the people around him did not actually collude with Russians who were involved in this election, that's a great thing for this country. That the man who's president and maybe president not just for the next two years but for the next four years after that, the fact that he did not collude is good.

WU: I don't think --

CUCCINELLI: Well, it isn't just related to this president.

COOPER: Go ahead, Ken.

CUCCINELLI: Sorry. I thought you were speaking to me.


COOPER: No, I was speaking to you, Ken.

CUCCINELLI: OK. It isn't just related to this president the reason this is good. This is a national issue. Forget Republican and Democrat, we need clean elections that aren't interfered with -- that are run legally and aren't interfered with by foreign powers.

And Russia has been very aggressive well before the 2016 election, though there are now technological tools available to them that give them other option that they exercise pretty effectively in 2016 that they hadn't before.

I think that's important to every American. I don't know anybody of any stripe on either side of the aisle that doesn't think that's a big deal. And in that sense tonight, or this letter and the Friday report, is a good outcome for this country.

For the people who just want to take the President down and use this to do it, look, move to the issues. And Jennifer Granholm said this morning on State of the Union, you know, the 2020 candidates for the Democrats really are not dealing too much with this. They're dealing with things that affect people's real lives and I think that's very smart on their part.

And I think the rest of the political world would be wise to get back to that, too. And yes, there are things the answers, coming out of this -- but we need to get back to making America a better place for every American.


CUCCINELLI: And that won't going to happen if most of the political world is focused on this.

COOPER: Carrie?

CORDERO: Anderson, there's one -- there's one part of that, and I completely agree with Ken that we should be glad to know that the President and his campaign did not rise to the level of engaging in a criminal conspiracy, we can be happy about that.

But I think there's a part of this that worries me for 2020 and beyond. And that is -- that according to a New York Times report in January of 2019, the President and 17 different officials on the campaign had contacts with Russian government or Russian surrogate officials. The attorney general's letter said that there were multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the campaign. There is some level of activity that is below the standard of a criminal conspiracy but is meeting with foreign counterparts of a hostile foreign power and potentially accepting some assistance that our laws don't seem to cover.

And I think we -- there is more of a conversation to be had about what level of foreign -- hostile foreign power interaction we are willing to accept in our electoral process.

COOPER: Oh, that's fair enough. We've got to take a break, everyone, thank you. Much more ahead on this very big night, we'll speak to someone who was interviewed by the Mueller team, talk more about what happens next in the political arena because that's clearly where this is going to be much discussed. A member of the House of Oversight Committee joins us ahead.



COOPER: As you heard earlier in the program, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says that today's letter from Attorney General William Barr, raises far more questions than answers. Democrat Jerry Nadler also said he wants to call Barr to testify before his committee in the near future, and other committees may well join in.

Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Gerald Connolly of the House Oversight Committee. Congressman, thanks for being with us.


COOPER: Is there any other way to characterize this report but as anything other than a very near complete win for the President?

CONNOLLY: I don't agree with that at all, Anderson.

COOPER: How so?

CONNOLLY: Why would you conclude that? Let's start with obstruction of justice. This report says, and he quotes from Mueller, one of the few times he does, while this report does not conclude the President committed a crime. It also does not exonerate him, to finish that sentence, from committing a crime.


CONNOLLY: If that's exoneration --

COOPER: Right.

CONNOLLY: I don't know what, you know, victory would be. And then there's collusion. COOPER: Collusion.

CONNOLLY: Yes, let's talk about collusion. So, all it says is, we didn't conclude that anybody on the campaign rose to the level of criminal activity. Your last panellist, I think, put the correct point on this.

But are we going to now accept that it is normal in presidential campaigns, for a whole campaign team to have 100 contacts with a foreign adversary, whom they knew was trying to disrupt our election and tilt it? That's just business as usual.

COOPER: Right.

CONNOLLY: Are we going to accept that norm?

COOPER: But a lot of Democrats --

CONNOLLY: And oh, by the way -- oh, by the way, what else did Mueller find short of criminal collusion?

COOPER: But a lot of Democrats have been saying publicly, you know, there is direct evidence of collusion. There is direct evidence of it and of criminal activity, there's not, according to Mueller, on the collusion front.

CONNOLLY: Well, I think -- I think that's a function of language. Was there collusion? Well, if you're meeting with Russian operatives, who have told you in advance, the purpose of the meeting is to give you dirt on your political opponent.

And you respond, I love it, and you show up at that meeting to hear the details of that, or you encourage the Russians to release even more WikiLeaks e-mails, I think that, to a layman's ear, looks like collusion. It may not rise to criminal --

COOPER: There's a difference between being sleazy and, you know, doing things which are objectionable --

CONNOLLY: That's right.

COOPER: -- and wrong, and not criminal.

CONNOLLY: That's right. But that -- but that's why I took issue with how you premised this question. Is this total exoneration or vindication or can Democrats be anything but despairing of this very scanty anemic summary of a report that I think is much more rich?

COOPER: I understand it makes sense for the American people to see the full report. I'm not sure you're going to get the underlying documents as many Democrats want. That may seem -- that may -- seems like that's going to be a lot more difficult. Wouldn't you think?

CONNOLLY: It may be difficult but I think it's going to be necessary if we're going to put a period on this examination. [20:40:03] COOPER: Some, though -- I mean, it could be said that that's hypocritical for Democrats who have been very supportive of Robert Mueller, protecting him against President Trump who has been saying it's a witch hunt and he's a buddy of Comey's and isn't a straight shooter.

For Democrats now to say well, yes, we have complete confidence in Robert Mueller but now we're disappointed by the results and we now want to see all the documents he had and essentially reinvestigate his investigation?

CONNOLLY: No, I don't think that's hypocritical. Right now, we have a summary from a not disinterested party, who already, in a preview, sort of an interview for his job, wrote this fawning memo criticizing the Mueller report --

COOPER: Right.

CONNOLLY: -- or the Mueller investigation is now making decisions for us, including what's in the Mueller report. I don't it's hypocritical at all to say I do stand by the integrity of Robert Mueller, but I also want to see the full report and what led him to those conclusions or findings, in terms of the documentary evidence.

COOPER: But Rod Rosenstein was also involved, according to Barr, in the decision of not moving forward on any criminal charge related to obstruction of justice. So it's not just Attorney General Barr who made that decision, it seems. Does that give you any more confidence?

CONNOLLY: What it does is make me want to know a lot more. If the words they quote say, neither did he exonerate him from obstruction of justice, what led you, nonetheless, to conclude, either Mr. Barr or Mr. Rosenstein, that you were going to go one way not the other, when Mueller didn't say that?

COOPER: Congressman Connolly, always appreciate it. Thank you very much.

CONNOLLY: My pleasure.

COOPER: The President may be pleased that a Special Counsel's conclusions, especially on collusion, that said he said nothing about Robert Mueller himself today (INAUDIBLE) which is certainly a break from the past when he has had plenty to say.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The problem with the Mueller investigation is everybody has got massive conflicts.

Mr. Mueller is highly conflicted. In fact, Comey is like his best friend.

These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I've ever seen.

I call them the 13 angry Democrats. I could go into conflict after conflict. But sadly, Mr. Mueller is conflicted.

Mueller was not senate-confirmed, because of all the conflicts. They didn't want to bring him before the Senate because he's very conflicted.

He's conflicted. And I know that his best friend is Comey, who is a bad cop. He put 13 highly conflicted and, you know, very angry -- I call them angry Democrats in.


COOPER: The last bit the President said just a few days ago. Here with me now is USA Today Columnist Kirsten Powers and Former Trump Campaign Adviser Michael Caputo was interviewed by the Special Counsel's team.

Kirsten, I want to ask you about something I talked earlier to Ken Cuccinelli about, which is understand Democrats are, you know, seemingly despondent and because this not what they expected and obviously Republicans who support the President are thrilled, isn't this, though --

I mean, if, in fact, there was no collusion, and that's what Robert Mueller has said, no, you know, criminally chargeable conclusion -- collusion by the President or anyone around him, again, that seems to be great news for the country, whether there was sleazy --


COOPER: -- activity, you know, bad things going on, poor choices made, inappropriate things. I mean, that's good that the president of the United States not collude.

POWERS: I agree. I think it's very good. And I think that the President has a lot of reason to have been upset this entire time, that he was being accused of this, and that you had many Democrats coming out and saying as much as that he was basically guilty of collusion, when that hadn't been proven.

So, I think there's no question on that front, this is a very good day for Donald Trump and for his administration and the people around him. I think on the obstruction of justice issue, I think Democrats are right to be asking questions and is particularly because they haven't seen the actual report from Mueller.

Instead, what they've seen is something that is basically a determination made by the Department of Justice, political appointees, who are appointed by Donald Trump. So, I think it's fair to ask about that, but I also think it's true that it's a really good day for him on the collusion front.

COOPER: Michael, does it -- I understand Democrats wanting to see the actual Mueller report and certainly American people wanting to get a better understanding of exactly what they've been doing and what happened to the country.

Getting the actual documents, the investigative documents, the interviews by the FBI, things like that, that seems like a whole other step and seems to be an investigation of the Mueller investigation by Democrats who said they previously have complete faith in the Mueller investigation.

MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER ADVISER OF THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN: That's true. Every attorney I've talked to --I've got a few, myself. And I work with a lot of attorneys, former U.S. attorneys. Not one of them in the last couple of days has told me that they expect the underlying documents to be -- to be revealed. In fact, a lot of those attorneys believe that it would be surprising if we see the entire report. I think we should see the entire report. Right now, you know, I want to read it, I want to see it, I know all of America does.

I'd like to see as much unredacted -- you know, transparency is possible, but you know, kind of as we sit here and watch the Democrats and the kind of resistance media out there, the Twitter feeds kind of sifting through the rubble of the Russia investigation spin that was out there, and has kind of collapsed all around them. There's a lot of hindering (ph) going on. And you know, the idea that the House Democrats want to go forward with this investigation, trying to prove that -- what Mueller could never prove with all of his star prosecutors and FBI agents, I think it's -- you know, it's going to -- it's time for Republicans to buy popcorn more than anything else.

COOPER: Michael, just on a personal level -- I mean, you know, you were interviewed by Mueller, and you know, that comes with it tens of thousands, if not more than $100,000, I'm sure, in legal fees and time, you know, of your life spent, just personally, you know, when we talked about this, I guess, when the word came out that there would be no new indictments. Now that this has come out, how do you feel?

CAPUTO: I've learned a lot, Anderson. I used to work in Congress, I represented the broadcast media interests to seven different standing committees at the House of Representatives. So, I know what it's like to go through a House and a Senate Committee inquiry. You know, testifying before those bodies, but going through a Mueller type of -- an office of special counsel investigation interview is a totally different thing. I mean, you have the political side in Congress and the criminal side at the Department of Justice, and it's a very intimidating thing. Even though, you know, I was a witness for two years amongst 50 other friends of mine who were witnesses through these two years, we all felt in peril the entire time because this team of prosecutors and investigators could flip us from witness to target in the blink of an eye.


CAPUTO: So, you're always in peril when the office is open. And now that it's closed, it's a relief in a lot of ways, and it's really great for the President from my perspective. He can move forward in many different paths from here.

COOPER: Kirsten, just finally, should this have impact on other investigations that Congress wants to. I mean, obviously, there are other investigations by the Southern district of New York and other jurisdictions, and -- but in terms of the political investigations by Democrats, do you think this should have an impact?

POWERS: Well, yes, but I've also always felt that they needed to be careful about this anyway because, I mean -- and we've -- I think we've talked about it before, there have been times when we've had conversations about, are they getting too far out on a limb, you know, pinning everything on this idea that there was collusion? And so, I think that now, what it looks like, because you did have elected members of Congress basically saying that they knew that there had been collusion when there -- they didn't really have the evidence. There was a lot more evidence, you know, of obstruction of justice, if there was ever anything. But I think for collusion, you know, that wasn't really something that they could know.

And now, it becomes the boy who cried wolf, right? You know, if you've been saying this over and over and then you have someone like Bob Mueller, who should be trusted, who Democrats said they trusted, saying no, that it didn't happen. I think that they have to be very careful about the kinds of investigations. Because then it can start looking like an actual witch hunt.

COOPER: Right.

POWERS: What Donald Trump was saying it was.

COOPER: Yes. Kirsten Powers, thank you, Michael Caputo as well. While President Trump and his allies celebrate today's news, there are other ongoing investigations we talked about looking to the President and his associates. We'll have more on that, and a look at the state of play.


COOPER: While President Trump and his supporters are understandably very happy about today's news, the effective end of the Russia investigation by the special counsel, more probes are ongoing by a variety of federal, state, and congressional investigators. You can see some of those investigations here. Among them, the Trump organization, the ongoing look by federal prosecutors in the southern district of New York into those hush money payments made to women by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen during the 2016 Presidential election campaign.

There's also a New York State investigation into now defunct Trump organization amidst accusations that have violated state laws, governing charities. Federal prosecutors are also investigation whether Mr. Trump's inaugural committee accepted illegal donations or misused funds or broker special access to the administrations for donors.

Here with me now, CNN's Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz, both of whom have covered these investigations. So, understandably, the President, you know, scored a big victory and certainly the country did in terms of learning that the President did not collude with Russia, according to special counsel. Legal woes, though, for the President certainly are not over.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. This is one of those cases where the end isn't quite the end, right? Certainly for the President, there's still a lot of legal issues that will -- that he and his lawyers are going to be having to deal with. You mentioned the southern district of New York, the prosecutors there in Manhattan, who are, frankly, the only ones that in the end, landed a punch on the President throughout this last two years, nearly two years of investigations. They are the ones essentially who were able to declare in court and a judge made it a finding a fact that the President was essentially an unindicted co-conspirator in the crimes of Michael Cohen, which was the campaign finance violation and the cover up of those payments to those women.

[20:55:13] So again, that is probably the most serious investigation for the President. We know that one of the things that the prosecutors are still looking at is whether or not anybody else was involved in the cover-up and in masking those payments. And whether or not, they committed a campaign finance violation. Obviously, this is an investigation that was -- is going to continue. And I think if you're the President, you have to worry about whether your company, whether any members of your family could be impacted or affected by that investigation, Anderson.

COOPER: Shimon, in terms of the investigations, do you agree that it's the southern district's one that, A, has been the most fruitful so far?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME & JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, they have. We have seen activity there. We've seen quite aggressive activity. It was -- right, the search warrants of Michael Cohen. We've seen subpoenas issued to the inauguration committee. So, we don't have a good -- or I should say, a great idea of what they're looking at, but we have a general idea in terms of the inauguration, what they are looking at. And one of those things is foreign money, whether or not foreign money went into the inauguration.

And the southern district of New York, the other investigation is the hush money payments. They just put out, the court ordered the U.S. Attorney's Office to release documents from the search warrant, and everything that had to do with the hush money payments, the search warrant related to that. It was all redacted, indicating that very much is still under investigation. You have the Trump organization that's still under investigation there. I think we could see other people from the organization who could be charged in connection with that.

COOPER: It'd be interesting to see how the politics of all of this impacts, if it does at all, these other ongoing investigations, the results that we learned today. Evan Perez, thank you, Shimon Prokupecz. Stay with us on this historic, really, Sunday night.

Much more ahead, the President's assertion of complete and total exoneration, and what lies ahead. Plus, what 2020 Presidential candidates are saying about the Mueller findings when we continue.