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DOJ To Mueller: Testimony Must Stay Within Bounds Of Report; Spokesman: Mueller Will Have Prepared Opening Statement That Hasn't Been Seen By DOJ or Attorney General Barr; Protesters Fill Streets in Puerto Rico Calling For Governor to Resign. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 22, 2019 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Chris Cuomo is off tonight. Welcome to a Special Edition of 360. We're devoting the hour to Robert Mueller's upcoming testimony before Congress and the contents of his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Tonight, the Justice Department sent him a letter, laying out guidelines for his testimony, including a reminder not to go beyond what's in his report, something you'll remember he's already said that he would do. We'll have more on the breaking news in just a moment.

But first, quickly, why what happens on Wednesday may be so significant, starting with something that sometimes is overlooked. Not everyone has read the report.

In fact, the vast majority of people have not, which has allowed everyone, from the President on down to put their own spin on it, or if you prefer simple English, to Washington speak to lie about it, including this.

And I'm quoting now, "The evidence we obtained about the President's actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred," which is a far cry from what the President and others have been saying, and saying repeatedly.


DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We had no collusion, no obstruction, we had no nothing. We had a total no-collusion finding.

It said no collusion. The report was written. And the Attorney General, based on the report, was easily able to find there was no obstruction. There's no nothing.


COOPER: Well, keeping them honest, other than the part about Attorney General Barr's decision, not one word of that is true. We'll be talking tonight about the ways in which it's not. We've got a lot of experts tonight on the law and Congress and on

Robert Mueller himself, and we begin with some of what the Mueller report has to say about as many as 10 instances of possible obstruction of justice, including some, in which the President asked his aides to take action that would have impeded the investigation.

Quoting from page four, volume two, about his orders to then White House Counsel Don McGahn.

"On June 17, 2017, the President called McGahn at home and directed him to call the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed. McGahn did not carry out the direction, however deciding that he would rather resign than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre."

Now, in point of fact, the Special Counsel did not have conflicts of interests, meaning the firing would have been under false pretenses. It would have been a lie. And then, as the report details in the following pages, the President asked Don McGahn to lie about the lie.

Quoting again from the Mueller report, "In early 2018, the press reported that the President had directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed in June 2 - 2017, and that McGahn had threatened to resign rather than carry out the order."

It continues, "The President reacted to the news stories by directing White House officials to tell McGahn to dispute the story and create a record stating he had not - he had not been ordered to have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn told those officials that the media reports were accurate, in stating that the President had directed McGahn to have the Special Counsel removed."

The report goes on to say, "The President then met with McGahn in the Oval Office and again pressured him to deny the reports."

That's just some of what the Mueller report has to say on the "No obstruction" claim. We'll talk more about that and no collusion.

But first, more on this Justice Department letter, telling the former Special Counsel what to do - to do what he already said he would do, our Jessica Schneider has the late details, joins us now.

So, Mueller actually requested this guidance from the Department of Justice?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, it's actually the first thing that's referenced in this letter to Robert Mueller that Mueller himself requested this guidance about what he can and can't say during his testimony on Wednesday.

And really the letter lays it out in very strict terms saying any testimony must remain within the bounds of the public report that Mueller cannot refer to any redacted material from the report, references like Grand Jury material or other ongoing investigations. And crucially, Mueller must not discuss the conduct of any uncharged third parties. And Anderson, that right there will likely severely hinder Democrats' plan to hammer home the question, "Would Donald Trump be charged with obstruction if he were not the President?" Since really, by the terms of this letter, Mueller will not be able to talk about any uncharged third parties here.

COOPER: And in terms of any kind of an opening statement from Mueller, do we know if the Department of Justice gets a copy of that beforehand?

SCHNEIDER: Right. So, I'm told no one at DOJ will see Mueller's opening statement before it's delivered.

In fact, Mueller's spokesman told me today that it will be under wraps until the hearing begins on Wednesday morning. So, the Attorney General won't be able to weigh in on it, nor will any other DOJ official, you know.

But given this strict guidance that we're seeing coming from the Justice Department tonight, in that page and a half email, it is very possible, Anderson, that Mueller's opening testimony could really just be a rehash of the public statement that we got from him on May 29th, when he seemed to really just lay out the bullet points of his report, so Democrats' fear that he might not say much more, well it could be pretty founded here.

[21:05:00] COOPER: Yes. I mean that would make sense. I mean what - what else do we know about how Mueller's been preparing for Wednesday?

SCHNEIDER: He's been preparing diligently. I'm told that Mueller has been prepping with members of his team.

It's a small group from the Special Counsel's Office who he worked closely with for the past two years. They've been meeting recently in an office at WilmerHale, that's Mueller's former law firm, here in Washington.

But, you know, I - I pressed further. I asked Mueller's spokesman if he could talk about the questions that Mueller has been preparing for, and the spokesman said that he wouldn't give any content, wouldn't give any details on the content of what Mueller will say, and only that Mueller will in fact stick to what was in his report.

And I also asked the frame of mind of Robert Mueller, heading into these hearings, and his spokesman, Anderson, wouldn't comment on that either, only saying that given Mueller's long career and reputation for being prepared, he will be ready for Wednesday, Anderson.

COOPER: Yes. Jessica Schneider, appreciate it. Thanks.

With us now, CNN's Chief Legal Analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Legal Analyst, Anne Milgram, Nixon White House Counsel, John Dean, and CNN Legal Analyst, Shan Wu. Jeff, Anne, and Shan are former federal prosecutors. Anne is also the former Attorney General of the State of New Jersey.

Jeff, do you agree with the Department of Justice that Mueller has to stick to essentially everything that's just in the report?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: A little bit. I mean I think it is - it is true that there are certain ironclad things he cannot disclose. He cannot disclose Grand Jury material.

But as a private citizen, who used to work in the government, and remember, that's what Mueller is at this point, I think he has a certain degree of freedom to talk about the nature of his work and in a somewhat broader sense.

COOPER: But it - but you - do you believe that he would answer - because there have been a lot of Democrats, Congressional Democrats on television saying, "Well, of course, what we want to know is, if it wasn't for the legal count - Office of Legal Counsel's ruling, would he have, you know, brought charges on obstruction," and it doesn't seem like he'll answer that.

TOOBIN: I don't - I don't think he - he will answer that. And that is, I think, somewhat unfair. I mean he talked about in his report that because he - the - of the - of the rule that says, you know, presidents can't be indicted--

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: --it would be unfair to say the President should be indicted because there would be no forum for him to respond. So, I think he's going to stick to that position, having laid out that position in the report.

COOPER: Anne, why - I mean why would the - the DOJ says that Mueller asked for this guidance. Why would he ask for the guidance? It doesn't give him cover in terms of how he answer?

ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Maybe. Maybe. And just to have it be very clear, when he sits there tomorrow, and says repeatedly, "I'm going to refer you to my report," that he's staying within - within sort of the confines that he's expected to stay within.

I also agree completely with Jeff though. He was never going to say that the President should have been indicted or would be indicted. That's just not Mueller, and it's not what he's written in the report.

So, I don't think that was ever on the table. I think this may be more about making sure that he doesn't go even outside of the strict parameters that Mueller himself would already have.

COOPER: So, John, we had a Congressman Cicilline on. And basically, it seems like the Democratic strategy on one, he claims that they're sort of - it's not going to be a lot of people making public statements, a lot of Members of Congress giving long rambling opening statements, which they often do, remains to be seen, of course.

But it does seem like they're going to be focusing on - on sort of five main areas of possible obstruction. JOHN DEAN, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think that's true. The staff has certainly been trying to guide them that way to - to have almost rehearsal sessions with him.

But I'd like to just add a footnote to what has just been said about the letter that now restricts him. If you look at the new regulations at the department that came out during the Trump administration, it's now called the Justice Manual.

First of all, a former employee who is subpoenaed, as Mueller asked to be, in this case, is considered under these regulations, and those regulations indeed restrict what he can say. So, it almost looks like a setup to me that he asked for this subpoena.

COOPER: How do you mean a setup?

J. DEAN: He asked for the subpoena that would force him under the regulations of the department, even though he's now a private citizen.

COOPER: So, if he wasn't under the regulations of the department, and a private citizen, he - he could say whatever he wanted to say?

J. DEAN: Well I think there's no enforcement device with all - with these regulations. I don't know what the department would do with a former employee who went ahead and did something in direct violation of those.

But I - obviously, he's not going to go into Grand Jury testimony. There are sanctions on that. But a lot of these are just policy positions of the department.

COOPER: But Shan, he's certainly a reluctant witness. I mean it's not as if he is dying to do this. He clearly does not wanted to be there.

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. He clearly does not want to be there. And I think, to John's point, that's probably why he wanted to be subpoenaed, so he could rely on that to restrict what he testifies to more.

[21:10:00] I'm - I do think though there is still plenty of room for him to make some things crystal clear. And one of the things I hope comes out of this is that unquestionably the Special Counsel's Office chose to abide by the department regulation on not charging a sitting President.

And I think there's been a lot of spin about that issue, as though there was a substantive reason not to charge the President, but that should come out crystal clear, they felt they could not do that.

TOOBIN: But - but even at a more basic level, you know, we who are in this world are very familiar with the facts of the Mueller report. Most people are not. And the story you just told about the President telling Don McGahn--

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: --to fire Mueller, and then telling Don McGahn--

COOPER: To lie about it.

TOOBIN: --to lie about the firing.

COOPER: And create a - a fake record of it.

TOOBIN: You know, most people don't know that.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: And if Mueller were to tell that story, which is of course in his report, to the American public in a setting where a lot of people are paying attention for the first time, I mean that may have some impact.

I don't think the polls will change. But I just think, as a matter for the historical record, and as a matter of what Special Counsel should do, that's important for the public to hear.


TOOBIN: And that there's no legal ambiguity about his ability to tell that story.

COOPER: Yes. I got to take a quick break. We're going to have more coming up from - from everybody, including their take on what if anything Democrats might be able to extract from Mueller when it comes to obstruction of justice.

And later, keeping them honest, focusing on the other part of the Mueller report, Russian interference in the 2016 election, why the President keeps insisting there's no collusion there.


COOPER: Back now with our legal experts as we spend the Special Edition of 360 looking at what to expect when Mueller testifies on Capitol Hill on - on Wednesday.

John Dean, I heard you say or I saw you - you - you wrote that if Mueller had been the prosecutor during the Watergate hearings, the Special Prosecutor during the Watergate case, Nixon would have gotten away with it.

J. DEAN: That's right. I shared that with your office.

COOPER: Yes. I mean--

J. DEAN: And I--

COOPER: --can you explain that?

J. DEAN: Yes. It's just - it's simple. I waited until I was sure that Archibald Cox was going to go after the tapes to decide what I was going to do with my own situation. I had been immunized by the Senate, rather massive immunity.

I also had informal immunity from the prosecutors. And my lawyer said, "John, you can't be prosecuted at this stage, unless you want to be, or if you - unless you plead." Well had, I said, "Charlie, if they go after the tapes, it's going to change everything."

So, three days before Cox, while I was told about this, was going to be fired, I agreed to plea, and knowing he was going to be fired, because I was so convinced that he had taken it so far that they'd never turn that - they would never back off that.

COOPER: So, you don't think Mueller would have gone after the tapes?

J. DEAN: I don't think Mueller - the parallel is I do not - given Mueller's performance in the way he let Trump not appear under oath, not formally interview him, not in front of a Grand Jury, that's a sign to me that he wasn't being very aggressive, whereas Cox was very aggressive. And he - he was appointed under the same general authority that Mueller was appointed under.

COOPER: Do you - Jeff, do you agree that he wasn't aggressive?

TOOBIN: Well I mean I think the - the - the question of why he didn't subpoena the President is - is the one that really hovers over this whole investigation because, look, everybody knows that the President lies all the time.

And if he had the opportunity to question him under oath--

COOPER: He would have lied.

TOOBIN: --he - would have lied and created an - you know, all sorts of problems. You know, in the report he has an extensive section explaining why he didn't - he didn't subpoena the President.

And he basically said the litigation over it would have taken so long that it just would have held up the investigation too long. Whether that's true, I - I don't know. But I think the history's judgment on Mueller will rest significantly on his decision not to force a confrontation--

MILGRAM: I agree with Jeff on--

TOOBIN: --over that testimony.

MILGRAM: --I agree - sorry. I agree with Jeff very much on this.

I think the other really interesting thing that Mueller says along with, it would take too long is that he felt he had sufficient evidence to assess the facts, which leads completely to this conclusion, in my view that he thought he had sufficient evidence to show obstruction of justice.

COOPER: Yes. You know, one section of the report that the Democrats plan to focus on is the President trying to get his former Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski to influence the Attorney General. And I just want to read what it says, because again, this is one of

those moments that I think a lot of people haven't really focused on. And again, this is from the Mueller report.

"On June 19, 2017, the President met one-on-one in the Oval Office with his former Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski, a trusted advisor outside the government, and dictated a message for Lewandowski to deliver to Sessions," Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General.

"The message said that Sessions should publicly announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation was "Very unfair" to the President, the President had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to meet with the Special Counsel and let him move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections.

One month later, in another private meeting with Lewandowski on July 19, 2017, the President asked about the status of his message for Sessions to limit the Special Counsel's investigation to future election interference. Lewandowski told the President that the message would be delivered soon.

Hours after that meeting, the President publicly criticized Sessions in an interview with The New York Times, and then issued a series of tweets making it clear that Sessions' job was in jeopardy.

Lewandowski did not want to deliver the President's message personally, so he asked Senior White House official Rick Dearborn to deliver it to Sessions. Dearborn was uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through."

Again, this is one of those incidents--

TOOBIN: This - this is like the High School from Hell. I mean, look at all these, they - none of them will deliver the messages that the other person - Anderson, I'm sorry to interrupt.

COOPER: No, I mean, I guess--

TOOBIN: But I mean it just - it's just un - I mean--

COOPER: But it's also one of those examples, Shan, of, you know, Lewandowski and Dearborn--

WU: Right.

COOPER: --knowing what's what and neither of them wanted to get near this thing with a 10-foot pole.

WU: Right. And it's actually, you know, when people who aren't really versed in the law or the report hear this they may think "What's the big deal? The President's telling his people to do something."

[21:20:00] And this is a great opportunity, if you can get Mueller to explain the fact that this notion that just because the President has the power to do these things does not mean that his motive wasn't corrupt, and that's an opportunity for them to get that part of the story out, simply by referring to what's in the report itself.

COOPER: If Mueller is asked, did he agree with the Attorney General Barr's conclusion that there was no obstruction, what would he - how does he answer that?

TOOBIN: That's a - that's a - that's a tough one. I mean he'll certainly will be asked that. I think he will just refer to the report, and say that we - we could not exonerate the President from extract - from obstruct - obstruction of justice, but we can't conclude that he did either.

I mean, do you agree? I mean I - I don't--

MILGRAM: I would love--

TOOBIN: --I - I think it's a--


TOOBIN: --that - that's a - it's a good question. I don't know what the answer is.

MILGRAM: I think it's a great question. And I think we would all love for Mueller to answer it. I'm inclined to think Jeff is right.

That being said, he did put in writing to Attorney General Barr that the summary that Barr says it's not a summary, was a mis - was not a full and accurate and fair representation of his report.

So, I think if Congress does a good job, and there's no guarantee that the questioning will be as good as it should be, but if they do a good job, there is an avenue, I think, to really explore some of that.

J. DEAN: Anderson, the--


J. DEAN: --the Lewandowski case also is a wonderful example of an endeavor where you don't complete the act but that itself is a crime, just the endeavor.

COOPER: Even if it's not complete?

J. DEAN: Even if it's not complete.

COOPER: Everyone stick around. We're going to take up the collusion question next.


COOPER: We've been talking largely about obstruction of justice so far tonight, as detailed in volume two of the Mueller report.

Now volume one or the no collusion part of the President's "No obstruction, no collusion" claims, the report, as you know, makes it clear that collusion is not a federal crime nor such as coordination, even with a hostile foreign power.

The crime is conspiracy. And the report states that there is sufficient - there is insufficient evidence to bring charges on that. However, even as it does, the facts laid out in the report are certainly not flattering, and I'm quoting now from the Mueller report.

"The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.

Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.

The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."

In other words, no chargeable conspiracy, plenty of behavior, including attempted collusion that's really never been seen in a campaign before, including a Presidential candidate calling on an organization tied to Russian intelligence to publish material that had been hacked from the other side.


TRUMP: WikiLeaks, I love WikiLeaks.


TRUMP: This WikiLeaks stuff is unbelievable. It tells you the inner heart. You got to read it.

It's been amazing what's coming out on WikiLeaks.

This WikiLeaks is fascinating.

This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove.


COOPER: Quoting now from the report on WikiLeaks and the Russians, quote, "Beginning in June 2016, that's redacted, forecast to senior Campaign officials that WikiLeaks would release information damaging to Clinton. WikiLeaks' first release came in July 2016.

Around the same time, candidate Trump announced that he hoped Russia would recover emails described as missing from a private server used by Clinton when she was Secretary of State. He later said that he was speaking sarcastically."

Back now with Jeff Toobin, Anne Milgram, John Dean, and Shan Wu, I mean if you refer to (ph) the President, this play - this comes as close to exoneration of the President as anything else in the report. TOOBIN: And you can expect that the Republicans when they - when they have the opportunity to - to question Mueller, as they of course will, they will repeatedly go to this subject, and say you did not find any criminal conspiracy, involving the - the Russians and - and the Trump Campaign.


TOOBIN: And they have every right to - to do that. So, you can expect that when they have their turn to ask questions that will be a major focus.

COOPER: Anne, I want to read a part of the report about that - that kind of leaves the door open basically that the Special Counsel may not have been able to find everything on any collusion.

It says, quote, "Further, the Office learned that some of the individuals we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated, including some associated with the Trump Campaign, deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that feature encryption or that do not provide for long- term retention of data or communications records.

Accordingly, while this report embodies factual and legal determinations that the Office believes to be accurate and complete to the greatest extent possible, given these identified gaps, the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on, or cast in a new light, events described in the reports."

The bottom line, the investigators couldn't eliminate the possibility that the deleted information would actually reveal - reveal more.

MILGRAM: I think it's very important. And - and hopefully, Mueller will be asked about this. There - there is a specific reference to text messages between Erik Prince and Steve Bannon that were not accessible by the Special Counsel, and they were coordinating a meeting, involving the Russians.

And so, there are a lot of pieces that it's very clear both lack of cooperation by individuals and missing - missing information. And I hope that they go through this with Mueller.

Again, I don't think he'll go so far beyond the report. But it's a really important piece of this is that Mueller didn't have all the pieces of the puzzle.

And add to that the fact that you're dealing with a foreign government, and it's often difficult to get evidence from abroad, it made it very complicated for Mueller to do that part of the investigation.

WU: I think even the fact that they know that that report I find very surprising, because he's such a buttoned-down type of writer. It almost invites speculation that way. And to me, that signals that they thought there was a lot of smoke

around this issue, they're very suspicious about, and that's why they noted that little surprising fact.

J. DEAN: And, of course--

COOPER: John, yes.

J. DEAN: --of course, the President himself refused to give any answers in this area at all.

COOPER: Right.

J. DEAN: He only would address the obstruction.

COOPER: Right. No - no written answers--

J. DEAN: No written answers.

COOPER: --from his lawyers really on obstruction--

J. DEAN: Right.

COOPER: --of justice potential. I want to read another portion of the report. This is about the - the Campaign's involvement, and I'm quoting.

[21:30:00] "The Presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump showed interest in WikiLeaks' release of documents and welcomed their potential to damage candidate Clinton."

It goes on to say, "Although the investigation established that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."

Certainly not like the Campaign was innocent here. But again, this is something that the Republicans will point to during the - during the - the - the testimony.

TOOBIN: I mean it is a really one of the most remarkable stories of the 2016 Campaign that you have this very explicit effort by the Russians to steal emails, use social media to help Donald Trump get elected.

You have - you have the Trump Campaign knowing that WikiLeaks is - is using these hacked emails, encouraging that publicly, but you don't have a nexus between the two that's ever been proven, and that is an exoneration of sorts. There's no question.

COOPER: But it isn't - I mean, the President when asked, you know, I guess it was George Stephanopoulos interviewing him not too long ago about getting opposition research from a foreign government, he - would - you know, if he'd do it again, he said he - he essentially would, and then maybe or maybe not would - would call the FBI, depending on how bad it was.

WU: Yes. That just is an astounding thing for him to say. And it's really hard to understand. Again, everyone said this before, why the Campaign would be so open to that.

And I think one thing that can happen during this testimony is to again tell that story in a very plain fashion that they were so open and inviting to this type of actions, which are so wrong.

TOOBIN: Well and - and - and what about the - you know, the infamous June 2008 - 2016 meeting in Trump Tower, where the famous email says this is part of the Russian government's attempt - efforts to help your - your father get elected--

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: --President. And then the four top officials from the Campaign go to this meeting. I mean it is an incredibly inappropriate and probably criminal enterprise that is starting there.

Now, fortunately, the meeting didn't yield anything, fortunately for the Trump Campaign because there was no--

J. DEAN: Oh, we don't - we don't know. For example, when they gave them polling results, we don't know what they did with those polling results. They may well have affected how that social media was projected and targeted.

COOPER: There's no evidence that they could find that President Trump what - or then candidate Trump was informed about that meeting in advance or informed that the Russian government was supporting his Campaign.

Although again, I just find it hard to believe that, you know, Donnie Jr. gets the information that the Russian government is supporting his father's Campaign, and as you say, top people from the Campaign show at the meeting, and nobody mentions that to the candidate?

TOOBIN: And - and at the time that meeting is set up, the President and - the - the candidate Trump announces "I'm going to give a big speech--

COOPER: Right.

J. DEAN: Right.

TOOBIN: --about the terrible things that Hillary Clinton has done," and when the meeting turns out to be a bust, the speech never takes place.

MILGRAM: So, I think it's important on this too.

I don't fully agree with Mueller's analysis that they just didn't know what they were doing or what the law was. There - there's a little bit of leeway, I think, that he gives Don Jr., and some of the other folks in the meeting that I think many prosecutors wouldn't give them.

But regardless, I hope that this is a focus of the conversation on Wednesday because the Russian interference is such a critical piece of this, and I hope very much that it doesn't get lost--



MILGRAM: --because there's no question about that.

TOOBIN: This is going to be dealt with mostly in the Intelligence Committee hearing that the way they divided it up is the Justice - the - the Judiciary Committee is going to handle all the obstruction of justice issues.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: And the Intelligence Committee is going to do the - the collusion.


WU: No. To - to Jeff's point about that phrase "Criminal conspiracy," I think that's an area where the Republicans could get themselves into trouble. If they don't use that phrase, they have to be very specific. That's what was not found.

But if they blunder into these statements wanting Mueller to say "Absolutely zero evidence," the report says plain as day, multiple links.

COOPER: Yes. More to discuss, this evening about the former Special Counsel's impending testimony, including President Trump's claim that Robert Mueller exonerated him, we'll be right back.


COOPER: Well the President would have us believe that Robert Mueller's testimony, Wednesday, will be totally and completely anti-climactic that there's nothing to learn, nothing to see.

After all, says the President, Mueller exonerated him completely.


TRUMP: There was no collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction and none whatsoever. And it was a complete and total exoneration.

Total exoneration. Complete vindication.

It was a hoax. It was a witch hunt. So this comes back, and it comes back totally exonerating Donald Trump and a lot of other people.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Well he said it in tweets, he said at rallies, he said it during policy discussions, he said it in the first person, as well as the third.

But, keeping them honest, there is one problem with the President's own testimony, it's not the case, not at all, not for a second. It's not even something that was true for a day, and then had to be corrected.

It's been false since the day the report was released. In fact, it's right there in the report, and I'm quoting from the report.

"While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him." Does not exonerate him, does not, it does not exonerate him, just to repeat, doesn't exonerate him.

If we could keep that graphic up, and if you can squint hard, and look at the sourcing, you'll notice that this quote doesn't appear just once in the report, these exact words appear three times on three different pages, pages two, eight, and a 128 of volume two of the reporting, in case you're following at home.

That is three times Mueller says it doesn't exonerate him. One month after the release, the former Special Counsel said something similar during a brief public appearance at the Justice Department.


ROBERT MUELLER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, FORMER SPECIAL COUNSEL FOR THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: If we had had confidence that the President clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.


COOPER: Once again, not exoneration. When - when Robert Mueller says he and his team definitively or definitely could have exonerated you, and would have if the situation warranted, could have said that, but didn't, then you're not exonerated.

[21:40:00] Back with our - our legal team. The Democrats certainly are going to just try to focus on that as much as possible, and get him to say over and over again, he's not exonerated.

MILGRAM: With - without question. There are a couple of places like the example you just gave where Trump has said things about the report that are simply false. They're not true, as well as I think even Barr, the Attorney General.

And so, the Democrats should go through methodically many of those misrepresentations. And Mueller, even if he just repeats exactly what he just said, "We did not exonerate him," you know, it's important to be on record that what the President has said is not accurate, and that he was not exonerated.

COOPER: That would be - if - if the Democrats then start, or basically, using the President's words, and have Mueller refute them directly, I mean the President, you know, Mr. Mueller, the President said, you exonerated him, that's not the case.

J. DEAN: He could do that just based on repeating information in the report, staying right within the report.

COOPER: Right.

J. DEAN: The President and the Attorney General have misrepresented and distorted the report. So, people are going to get for the first time, on Wednesday, a lot of things they have not heard.

COOPER: Does - if somebody asks Mueller then is that a distortion or are they misrepresenting, what does he?

WU: Yes, I think that's the danger. I think, you know, Mueller's old prosecutor, very used to direct exam style questions. That's the best way to elicit information from him. Anything that sounds to him like it's leading--

COOPER: Right.

WU: --or they want him to comment, he's going to just stiff-arm that entirely. So, they need to build their case by getting him to do the, who, what, where, and how type questions, get him to regurgitate what's in the report.

I think for the Republicans, they got to score some points, they need to cross-examine him, leading questions, make him draw conclusions, that's going to be hard for them. That's a tough road with Robert Mueller.

MILGRAM: This is an important point though, which is that, you know, even with any witness, Robert Mueller or anyone else, they generally don't often agree with conclusions, they agree with facts.

And so, to the extent that Congress when they ask questions can - can basically be very specific about the facts they're asking Mueller and the report, they'll go a lot farther than trying to get him to draw conclusions, which I just don't think he'll do.

TOOBIN: Right. He - he - I mean just - just to - to put it concretely, he will say the report did not exonerate the President. He will not say the President is lying about the exoneration.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: I think he will rely on, you know, all the rest of us to make that point.

COOPER: Right. He's not looking to make dramatic headlines through his own statements.

TOOBIN: He didn't want to be there in the first place.

COOPER: Right. TOOBIN: So, I - I think, you know, the - the question I have is even how much he will repeat what's in the report as opposed to just refer to the report. I mean if he really wanted to be a difficult witness, he could simply answer questions by saying, you know, "The answer to that question is in the report."

Now, I assume he will not be that unresponsive. But given the parameters, he could really, you know, embarrass the Democrats if he does that.

COOPER: Right. And then they're trying to get him - force him to read his own report, which doesn't look great either.

TOOBIN: I don't think, I mean that would - that would be pretty bad.

COOPER: But Shan, your point was that what's critical is that the message--

WU: Right.

COOPER: --that he tells is that he was operating under Department of Justice guidelines--

WU: Yes.

COOPER: --and was therefore unable, and did not even entertain prosecuting a sitting President.

WU: Absolutely. I - I think that's very clearly stated in the report.

COOPER: Right.

WU: But it is rather dense and legalese. And if they can translate that into plain English, which is, you could not charge him, you weren't allowed to do that.

And if that can come out, that'd be very helpful because it'd really undercut the whole spin that the reason there was no obstruction charge was because of the fact there was no crime.

And the report even says that contrary to what the President's team says, you can obstruct justice, even in plain view, doing things the President isn't allowed to do, like dangling pardons and such like that, it can be obstruction, and they can make it plain that that could happen.

COOPER: Do you think - Anne, do you think this moves the needle at all, I mean after he's testifies. It doesn't--

MILGRAM: You know--

COOPER: --seem like it will.

MILGRAM: --I sort of agree with what other folks have said. I think it's incredibly important to have this conversation nationally. It - it is a very legalistic report. It's a long report. It is clear that even for the areas where it's not a crime, in my view, the President did things that the President shouldn't do, and be engaged in, and there are a lot of important issues here. So, I - I hope that people pay attention and listen, and, you know--


MILGRAM: --that's the best hope, I think.

COOPER: Jeffrey Toobin, Anne Milgram, John Dean, Shan Wu, thank you.

The 2020 Democratic Presidential contenders are divided on impeachment. Question is will Mueller's appearance before Congress change any of that as the Democratic candidates get ready for their next debate.

Former Governor Howard Dean, and Frank Bruni, from The New York Times join me to discuss whether Mueller helps or hurts their case to voters, the Democrats' case to voters, next.


COOPER: When Robert Mueller testifies on Wednesday could be the last time we ever hear him comment on his 448-page report, and anything related to it, that lawmakers can get out of him, but it could also reshape next week's Democratic Presidential debates here on CNN.

Now, when it comes to the impeachment question, they're seeing hesitance from some in their party on Capitol Hill. But this weekend, another powerful Democrat ramped up pressure for action.


REP. JERROLD NADLER (D-NY): This is a President who has violated the law six ways from Sunday. If anyone else had been accused of what the report finds the President had done, they would have been indicted.

The report presents very substantial evidence that the President is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, and we have to present that - or that Mueller present those facts to the American people, and then see where we go from there because the administration must be held accountable, and no President can be - can be above the law.


COOPER: With me now is former DNC Chairman, Howard Dean, and New York Times Op-Ed Columnist, Frank Bruni.

Governor Dean, do you think it is wise? I mean do you think that - that these impeachment hearings will substantially shift public opinion?

HOWARD DEAN, FORMER VERMONT GOVERNOR, FORMER DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't know because we don't know what's - what he's going to say. I - I actually am happy with the pace of what's going on here. COOPER: Why?

H. DEAN: Because I think we have to build the case, and we are building the case, and I don't think it's a bad thing that the party is split over this. I think it's building the case.


[21:50:00] H. DEAN: And that you can't impeach somebody unless the public thinks that there's a case to be made, and that case is being made in these investigative committees.

COOPER: Is it - I mean, do you feel like this is the right timing, I mean it - because it does feel like it's coming quite late in this whole process, no?

H. DEAN: You know, you can't control the timing. The timing is based on two things.

One, what is the evidence, and the two is what is the public reaction to the evidence. More and more, I think, people believe that Donald Trump is a racist. Donald Trump is a racist.

And I think that has - that case has to be made to a majority of the American people, so that they don't think we're doing the kinds of things that Republicans have been doing for all these years, which is stealing elections.

COOPER: Frank, do you think this will have an impact? I mean if all Robert - to the Governor's point, we don't know exactly what he's going to do.


COOPER: But if all he does essentially is read or reiterate exactly what is in the report, and doesn't go any further, is there power in that? Is it worthwhile?

BRUNI: There's some power but I fear there's not enough. And the power is a lot - most Americans haven't cracked the cover of this report. They haven't read any of it. They've heard us talking about it but that's still at a remove, and I think they have some skepticism about that.

And so, I think if he speaks in very crisp sound bites about some of what he's found, because if you read the report, we all know this, it's a searing indictment of the President's actions.

If he can kind of turn that into little capsules that are digestible, I think some people bizarrely will be hearing for the first time, in essence, what happened. But I'm as worried about the pace, as the Governor is, reassured by it, not - I understand what you're saying about it takes time--

H. DEAN: Right.

BRUNI: --and all that, but I think so many Americans are like "Why are we still talking about this? Why is this still going on?"

But it's - by the duration of it, it feels like ipso facto excessive to them. I don't think it is, but I think that's the way it comes across. I think a lot of Americans have tuned out.

And I think that the Attorney General did enormous damage when right out of the gate when people were paying attention, he spun all of this in - in a - in a manner that was so incredibly flattering to the President. I don't think that damage will ever be entirely undone.

COOPER: Governor, we reported last week that internal polling by Democrats show that the most forceful message against Donald Trump right now is that he's ineffective on - on issues like infrastructure and jobs, and not to fight on impeachment, and - and race.

H. DEAN: I don't believe we should fight the election on impeachment and race. I do think it's really clear to make Donald Trump unacceptable for decent people to vote for.

There was a really interesting piece by a guy who was involved in fighting David Duke's bid for governor, first senator, and then governor in Louisiana, and he believed that identifying Duke as a racist out of the gate was really important, so we have to do that.

There are - I think the majority of American people are decent people, and this group of people that can - who wants to send them back and all this crap, that doesn't represent anything close to the majority of the American people.

We've got to identify him for what he is. But then we do have to pivot. We are not going to win this election because Donald Trump is a racist.

We're going to win it because he is incompetent and because we have ideas that the American people like, for example, Medicare-for-All, as you don't - assuming you don't take away their insurance.

COOPER: Well, I mean Frank, it seems, because we had Tom Friedman who was on in the last hour.


COOPER: And he also just, you know, wrote a column, in which he was saying essentially, "Look, this is not the time for - for a revolution by the Democrats. Just get somebody who can beat Donald Trump, and then, you know, figure it out that there's a lot of people who are going to be turned off by the idea of having their private health insurance taken away." Well--

BRUNI: I - I agree with my colleague Tom Friedman on this entirely. I think Democrats win, if they spend less time talking about the America that Donald Trump wants to destroy, and more time about the America that they want to create, right?

H. DEAN: Agree with that. BRUNI: And that's the danger here is they're spending so much time. He is so expert, this President, at saying and doing outlandish things that make everybody stop in their tracks, and react to it.

But if you're constantly reacting to him, you're never getting your own message out, and that is the real danger, the trap that Democrats are in right now.

H. DEAN: That is absolutely correct. I agree with absolutely every word.

COOPER: It's one of the dangers, frankly, about - not dangers, but difficulties in reporting on this is, do you focus on every statement that's not true because then you just wind out, and after a while, people just shut that out.

H. DEAN: You know, he's a reality television star. It has to be about Trump. My - my advice has been talk about Trump for a moment, and then pivot, pivot to what we're good at.

We're good at healthcare. He's terrible at healthcare. We're good at education. He's terrible at - about education. We're actually good at creating jobs. He hasn't - you know, he's not been - unable to create the jobs, essentially for working people, the people who voted for him. These are - these are why people elect Presidents.

BRUNI: Well here's an idea, don't talk about him at all. I know that sounds cheeky and like I'm - I'm - I'm being silly.

But really, imagine what would happen, if the Democratic nominee decided, "You know what, I'm spending zero time talking about Donald Trump," because he's a distraction, he's noise, he's destructive, it would drive this person who's a glutton for attention insane.

I mean he would just go nuts more so, and it might be the best strategy in the world.

COOPER: Frank Bruni, thank you very much. Governor Howard Dean, appreciate it

H. DEAN: Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you.

[21:55:00] Including - more just ahead, including the very latest on the protests in Puerto Rico, demanding the resignation of the Island's Governor, a lot of people in the streets, we'll have more ahead.




(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of Puerto Rico today demanding the resignation of the Island's Governor.

Now, demonstrators accuse the Governor of corruption. They've been spurred in part by hundreds of pages of leaked chat messages between Governor Ricardo Rossello and members of his inner circle, and according to a university professor, "Offended almost every group on the island."

Even President Trump chimed in, saying today, Rossello is a "Terrible governor."

On Facebook yesterday, the Governor said that he wouldn't run for reelection next year, and acknowledged that what he called a huge portion of the population is unhappy. He did not though say he would step down.


COOPER: As you see, that did not think to stop today's protest, which continue.

The news continues as well. Want to turn things over to Don Lemon and CNN TONIGHT.