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Former Special Counsel To Have Deputy Join Him At Hearing; Source: Deputy Will Advise Mueller Won't Answer Questions; CNN: President Trump Quizzing People Around Him About What To Expect From Hearings; FBI Director Wray: Mueller Is "Professional," "Straight Shooter"; 9/11 Victims Bill Passes Senate, Heads To White House; President Trump More Irritated Than Anxious Ahead of Mueller Testimony; Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) are Interviewed About the Upcoming Testimony By Robert Mueller. Aired on 8-9p ET

Aired July 23, 2019 - 20:00   ET


[20:00:10] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And good evening from Washington.

Tomorrow morning, a quiet, retired public servant will go before a pair House committees and talk about a 448-page document, which is one way of putting it. And given his druthers, it might even be the way former Russia special counsel Robert Mueller would prefer to have it. It is not safe to say how people see it here in Washington, nor how people all over the country will likely see it tomorrow.

House Democrats will be questioning him tomorrow spent the day prepping for it. The president's Republican defender circulated talking points which CNN has now obtained. The president has been tweeting and talking about it, no surprise, and this is whether he thinks it ought to be or not a key moment in his presidency and a critical one for the country.

And even if Robert Mueller stays within the confines of his report as he says he will, it is still tremendously important or at least it could be, because not everyone, of course, has read it. In fact, most people have not, and because so many, including the president, especially the president, have been mischaracterizing what the report actually says.

I'm quoting now from volume one, page one: The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. That is how the report begins. I want to read you how it ends.

Volume one, page 182: If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we could so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

This is what Robert Mueller intended to be his final word and it is not kind to President Trump. Yet, as we said, the president, his defenders, and even the attorney general have been mischaracterizing the report.

Here is the president earlier today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I said this morning, I said, I wrote it out, I said, let's see because I'm watching. It goes on for years and years. No collusion, no obstruction.

Oh, that's not good enough. Let's go more, $40 million, interview 500 people. They got nothing.

I could find something, I could take anybody in this audience, give me $40 million, give me unlimited FBI, unlimited interviews, unlimited -- they interviewed 500 people.

Listen to this, 2,500 subpoenas that. They did everything. Their collusion, no collusion. They have no collusion.

Then I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president, but I don't even talk about that, because they did a report and there was no obstruction.


COOPER: All right. So, keeping them honest, the Mueller report did not conclude there was no obstruction of justice. The president's attorney general did. The report spoke at length about how as a matter of policy, a sitting president could not be indicted.

In addition, it laid out many instances of potential obstruction including this quote from page seven of volume two. Many of the president's acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons took place in public view. That circumstance is unusual but no principle of law excludes public acts from the reach of the obstruction laws.

By the way, one of the Republican talking points that CNN's Dana Bash obtained today which we'll go into later says and I quote: The president never interfered with anyone or any part of the investigation and was committed to transparency throughout the entire process.

I mean, that -- that is a talking point. It's clearly not true. According to the Mueller report, one of the most egregious examples of him interfering that Mueller documents is how the president tried to get Don McGahn, the White House counsel, to call the acting attorney general and said he had to get rid of Mueller. McGahn refused and when the story leaked, not only the White House denied it, the president tried to get McGahn to lie about it publicly, deny the president asked him to make that call, which he wouldn't do and to create a false record to prove that the president never tried to get him -- to get rid of Mueller. As for another talking point that the report did not establish that

campaign coordinator conspired with the Russian government in its election interference, that is true. What's not true is the talking point claiming the report confirmed there was no collusion, which it didn't dedicated the entire first volume to documenting how the Russian government tried to get Donald Trump elected and how the Trump campaign invited that help in ways that no campaign ever has. And that President Trump recently suggested he'd actually be OK to try again in an interview with George Stephanopoulos the next time a foreign government offers up dirt on a political opponent.

The Republican talking points, they don't mention that. And although they do slam the Obama administration's response to Russian interference, they don't mention this president's long history of denying that interference even happened.


[20:05:07] TRUMP: My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others. They said -- they think it's Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be.


COOPER: So just to repeat Robert Mueller's first words, the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. Those were his last words on the subject. Stay tuned until tomorrow.

Just moments ago, the president weighed in on one aspect of tomorrow's testimony. CNN's Kaitlan Collins joins us with more on that.

So, there was a last-minute request, there was a last minute request from Robert Mueller to have a top deputy basically appear alongside him. First of all, what more can you tell us? Why does he want that and what has been worked out?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, this is Aaron Zebley, who was Director Mueller's chief of staff when he was the FBI director. He followed him into the special counsel's office.

And now, they say, according to Mueller spokesman, that they talked about him accompanying Mueller to this hearing weeks ago, but there was last-minute request today to have him sworn in as he testifies which a source close to Mueller says is simply so he's there so he can help give him advice essentially when he's answering questions, not answer any questions for him.

But, of course, that last-minute request really raised a lot of eyebrows among Republicans who said they were trying to change the format at the last minute before this hearing. But we should note Doug Collins did just tell my colleague Jeremy Herb that Jerry Nadler has told him that Aaron Zebley will not have a speaking role at tomorrow's hearing in front of the House Judiciary Committee. He'll just be there to act as counsel to the special counsel. COOPER: And as we mentioned, the president responded just before air.

What did he have to say?

COLLINS: Yes, the president does not seem happy about this. He's tweeting a few moments ago saying that he just got back to hear of a last-minute change allowing what he calls a Never Trumper attorney to help Robert Mueller with his testimony before Congress. He calls it a disgrace, Anderson, to our system. And he says, it's never heard of before and should not be allowed.

This tweet really gives you a look inside what the president is thinking ahead of tomorrow's hearing.

COOPER: What have your sources been saying about how the president is feeling about Mueller's testimony tomorrow? Because, I mean, you know, yesterday I think it was he said well, you know, maybe I'll watch a little bit. I mean, the idea he maybe won't watch and this won't consume him tomorrow is, you know, laughable on its face, given the history of his television viewing.

COLLINS: Yes, it already seems to be consuming him now because not only is he tweeting about this last-minute change that we've seen of this request from Robert Mueller, but our reporting also shows the president has been having a series of phone calls with aides and allies talking about what it is Robert Mueller will be saying tomorrow.

And, Anderson, these people are walking away from these conversations saying that the president seems more irritated than he does anxious about this, because this is the guy who's been leading this investigation to him for the last two years, and now, he's going to be front and center and front of the television cameras tomorrow and that's something that's just not sitting well with the president who not only doesn't want any unflattering headlines to come out of this hearing tomorrow. He wants Republicans in those hearings to essentially to turn the tables back on Robert Mueller, to display what he says is his alleged bias at the FBI and the Justice Department. So, he's looking for fireworks tomorrow, just not the kind that Democrats are going to be looking for.

COOPER: Yes. Kaitlan Collins, thanks very much.

Joining us now, two lawmakers who will be questioning Mr. Mueller tomorrow, Pennsylvania Democratic Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon, vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Also, Texas Democrat Joaquin Castro who serves on the Intelligence Committee.

Congresswoman Scanlon, thanks for being with us.

First of all, I don't quite understand the -- I mean, the president's upset about this. Clearly, it seems he's just looking for any reason to kind of again say this is a rigged witch hunt. But what's the big deal about Robert Mueller having somebody who he consults with. People have attorneys all the time, people they consult with during their testimony. REP. MARY GAY SCANLON (D-PA): Well, it disrupts what the White House

has been trying to do with respect to the Mueller report. They redacted the report. They've tried to keep witnesses from appearing and testifying and they've suppressed the evidence. So, any additional help in telling the story, I think that goes against what they are trying to do.

COOPER: Why do you think Mueller waited until the last minute to do this? Does that raise any concerns for you?

SCANLON: I don't think so. I mean, I think there's been ongoing conversations about whether or not he would bring one or more aides with him. So, you know, as we've mentioned, it's an extensive report. A lot of witnesses were interviewed. A lot of documentation was gone through.

So, he probably just wants to make sure he's as complete and thorough as possible.

COOPER: Congressman Castro, Adam Schiff indicated the same request has been made of the Intelligence Committee. Has that request been granted and would the rules be around his deputy appearing to be the same as they are for the other committee?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO (D-TX): Yes, that's still being worked out and I take it to mean that Robert Mueller, because he's going to be talking about a report that is a few hundred pages probably wants somebody there to help him get into the nuances if he gets asked and he will get asked some questions that are very detailed. You want somebody there who knows the report back and forth also that can help you.

[20:10:04] COOPER: Congresswoman Scanlon, I understand the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee held essentially a mock hearing today which is, you know, something a lot of people do before debates and any big thing like this. Is there anything you can say about what you learned in it in taking part? Because I understand you actually even had somebody, you know, playing the roles of Republicans, Jim Jordan who obviously, you know, will probably be very vocal tomorrow.

SCANLON: I think the focus was really on making sure that we were as efficient as possible. We only have Mr. Mueller there for a limited amount of time and we want to make sure we cover --

COOPER: Is two hours for your committee or three?

SCANLON: No, it's three.

COOPER: Three?


COOPER: So, how much time do you have -- does each member have for questioning?

SCANLON: The committee works under the five-minute rule.


SCANLON: So, that's about what it is.

COOPER: So, let me just ask you, are you members of Congress, you know, sometimes they get criticized for making lengthy statements and kind of, you know, enjoying their time in the spotlight.

SCANLON: Grandstanding?

COOPER: Grandstanding, yes.

SCANLON: That's the term you're looking for, yes.

COOPER: Is there going to be a lot of that tomorrow? Because, I mean, that eats up a lot of time.

SCANLON: I don't think so. I think everybody is aware of just how serious this hearing is going to be and they're going to comport themselves accordingly.

COOPER: Congressman Castro, I want to play what Chairman Schiff had to say today about Mueller's testimony and then ask you about it.



REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): People are pretty dug in on not just Trump and Russia but they're just dug in on this president, if that appalling display of racism over the last two weeks wasn't enough to move people, is there anything that Bob Mueller can say that will?


COOPER: Congressman Castro, do you think he's right? I mean, do you think there is anything that Mueller could say that would actually move people's opinion about the president one way or another?

CASTRO: I hope so because Bob Mueller is going to be talking about things that are fundamental to our democracy, about potential obstruction of justice by the president of the United States, issues of conspiring with members of a foreign government to interfere with our elections, and then finally, perhaps issues of money laundering and leverage that a foreign government may have over the president or people that are in his circle.

So, hopefully, the American people with as much as possible will listen with open ears.

COOPER: Congressman, though, I mean, you say hopefully and I certainly understand your position on this, but -- I mean, all the information it seems that Mueller is going to give tomorrow are going to be asked about, he's going to stick to what is in the report and I know a lot of people have not read the report, most people have not read the report in the country.

CASTRO: Right.

COOPER: But essentially, people, you know, if they had any modicum of interest have a general sense of what is in the report and it doesn't seem like Mueller is, you know, given, we've looked at, you know, hundreds of hours of prior testimony he's given over the years, he has certainly not, you know, an emotional, demonstrative witness.

CASTRO: Yes, no, I think that's true. Look, there will be a crowd of people who have already made up their mind and it really doesn't matter what you say. They're not going to change their mind.

But I also believe that there is a crowd of Americans who are willing to listen and are willing to listen to Bob Mueller and even though he may not be the most dynamic guy in terms of how he answers questions, we're going to be talking about subjects that are very important to our democracy and to our country and I think that people will perk up because of that.

COOPER: Congresswoman Scanlon, what is your measure of success for the hearing tomorrow?

SCANLON: Well, I think it's going to be, if we get the attention of some of those folks who haven't really focused yet -- I mean, do think Bob Mueller is going to come in there and burn down the house? No. But I think it's his gravity and his seriousness and his patriotism that's going to impress the American people.

COOPER: And if all he does essentially is read from the report or recite, you know, in a detailed way through questioning what's in -- you know, specific examples of the president trying to get Don McGahn to create a false record, which is just an extraordinary thing on its face --

SCANLON: It's amazing.

COOPER: Yes, it is incredible. Is that enough?

SCANLON: I think it will be. We've seen for example when Congressman Amash came out and talked about that report for the first time, some people in his district said, wow, I had no idea that was in the report because this fake news has been out there that there was no obstruction, no collusion. That's not what the report says, and I think when people listen, they will come away with a different impression.

COOPER: Congressman Castro, is that your measure of success, as well?

CASTRO: Yes, I think so. And most of all making sure that the truth gets out to the American people on what is a very important subject to our democracy. And, you're right, there are a lot of people that probably 99 percent of Americans did not pick up that Mueller report and read any significant portion of it. So, for millions and millions of viewers, this will be the first time where they are really hearing the substance and some of the details about what was in that report.

COOPER: I want to thank Congressman Castro. Thank you very much for being with us.

[20:15:01] Congresswoman Scanlon, as well.

It's going to be a busy day tomorrow. A lot ahead both from the Judiciary Committee and Intelligence Committee tomorrow, hearings in both places, with Robert Mueller.

In light of president's tweet tonight, a question, is Robert Mueller's former boss and long-time friend, Attorney General Barr, leaning on him, trying to influence what he says? The Judiciary Committee chairman had plenty to say on that, so do the attorney general. We'll have details on that and perspective from our legal and political team ahead.

And later, a former Mueller colleague at the FBI and the kind of person he is and what he expects to see from him tomorrow under oath.


COOPER: Before the break, we talked about the fight over Robert Mueller's former deputy, Aaron Zebley, and his participation of tomorrow's proceedings. It is not the only controversy. There's also this.

Last night, you'll recall, the Justice Department sent Mueller a letter outlining what he could and couldn't discuss. We talked about on the program with some of the panel noting it seemed odd in tone considering the special counsel had publicly committed to doing more or less what the letter laid out.

[20:20:02] The Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler found it more than odd, telling "NEW DAY's" Alisyn Camerota, quote: I think it's incredibly arrogant of the department to try to instruct him as to what to say. He added, quote: It's a part of the ongoing cover up by administration to keep information away from the American people.

Later today, Attorney General Barr weighed in.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: They asked us for guidance in writing to explain or to tell them what our position was. So, we responded in writing. The department sent the guidance they had requested.

REPORTER: So, Mueller actually requested some guidance?

BARR: Yes.

REPORTER: Secondly, what do you think of Congressman Nadler lashing out, saying this was arrogant to send this letter?

BARR: He was misinformed as to the facts.


COOPER: Joining us now, our legal and political team. "AXE FILES" host and former top advisor, David Axelrod, CNN senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger, CNN chief legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, former Obama deputy assistant attorney general, Elliot Williams, "USA Today" columnist and CNN political analyst, Kirsten Powers, also, former RNC chief of staff and CNN political commentator, Mike Shields.

Gloria, I mean, we were reporting yesterday that Mueller had requested this.


COOPER: The Department of Justice pointed that out. So, why is Congressman Nadler saying this is unwarranted if in fact --

BORGER: Not me. Yes, I think Barr is making the point that Mueller requested it. And I think the reason Mueller probably requested and the reason he wants someone sitting next to him is that he kind of wants to be on solid ground, and I think he's being cocooned into a degree because he wants to turn to his right hand person and say, OK, correct me if I'm wrong on this little detail, and he wanted the guidance in writing from the Justice Department in case he gets he get challenged about what he can and cannot say, use of the executive privilege and all the rest.

So, I think it's really more about Mueller in this particular case than it is about the justice system.

COOPER: I don't understand, Jeff, though, why it's such a last-minute thing. I mean --

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it is not clear that it is the last minute thing. I mean, there seems to be some debate about when this came up.

But I have a suggestion. Like people ought to chill out about Aaron Zebley. No one cares about Aaron Zebley, his role in this one way and the other. And that letter --

COOPER: I'm sure he has friends and family.

TOOBIN: Well, that's true.



TOOBIN: Wish him nothing but the best.

COOPER: It doesn't sound that way.

TOOBIN: I mean, he's not important.


BORGER: He's important to Mueller.

TOOBIN: He's important to the Zebley family.

But the -- this is about Mueller and Mueller is going to say what Mueller is going to say and some letter that some bureaucrat wrote him is not going to determine what he says. Mueller is going to determine it.

COOPER: But, Elliot, it does give, I mean, the president, you know, has jumped at the chance to say that this is another example, that this is a, you know, crooked witch hunt.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: Yes, the problem is it gives them a talking point, right? Because what they want to say is that they aren't playing by the rules and Mueller isn't playing fairly and so on. Look, this is the kind of thing that they should have spent months negotiating and actually did spend a bunch of time negotiating the terms of this appearance.

So, it sort of -- it looks sort of odd to put someone next to him even if, you know, as Gloria said, it's not unreasonable but again, because it's showing up at the last minute, it just sort of feels odd and you gave the president a talking point. I just don't think that's what either the Democrats or Robert Mueller need right now.

COOPER: David?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I wonder how much of it is Mueller himself recognizing that he is walking a very narrow ledge here. He wants to stick to the text of his report. He doesn't want to go beyond it.

He understands the mission of the Republican there is to try and paint this as a partisan exercise, and he's going to be under siege from that side as well. And so, perhaps, he just wanted this guy there to make sure that he didn't slip off the ledge.

BORGER: I think he did.

COOPER: Well, yes. I mean, you know, we -- Randi Kaye did a piece --

AXELROD: Even though he's insignificant and trivial.



COOPER: Randi did a piece yesterday basically looking at, you know, many, many hours of Mueller testimony over many, many years and he is very precise in his testimony and he doesn't give an answer unless he is 100 percent sure of all the facts.


COOPER: So it makes sense he would want someone right there.

HENDERSON: I think that's right. I mean, you've seen when he's been up on Capitol Hill before even though he's reluctant to go this time, he's been up there dozens and dozens of times. If he doesn't know an answer, he'll say he doesn't have the answer and he'll have to get back to you.

And so, I think Gloria is exactly right. This is sort of a reference that he's going to have there with this aide who obviously knows him well, obviously knows the case well, as well.

But I do think also, this does give the Republicans an opening. I mean, these are Republican whose are really going to be wanting to perform for the audience of one, right, Donald Trump and put some of those Republican talking points and Donald Trump talking points in this hearing and kind of derail it in someway. So, I think this certainly gives them -- I think you think about Louie Gohmert, Jim Jordan is there as well, somebody like Devin Nunes on the Intel Committee.

So, I think, to the extent you're going to see fireworks, it will be coming from the Republican side and probably those members.

[20:25:04] COOPER: Kirsten, it's interesting, though. Both sides, we understand, have been doing sort of mock hearings, which I'm not sure how common that is for every hearing but certainly --


COOPER: -- for something of this size or this magnitude, I guess, it may be. It could still go off the rails. I mean, you could only do --

POWERS: What a prediction.


POWERS: Yes, I mean, obviously, the Republicans are going to try to be disruptive of this, but I think that -- and for the Democrats, this is very important. And so, I think they want to be prepared.

And there has been a lot of talk about how Mueller will stick to what's in the report, but I think there are opportunities here to ask some really direct yes and no questions, right? I mean, you can ask him, was this meant to be an impeachment referral, yes or no? If another person has done the things in this report, the type of obstruction of justice that seems to be laid out, anybody other than the president, would you have charged him with a crime, yes or no?

I mean, there are opportunities to ask him to address things not answered in that report.

COOPER: Mike, do you think he would answer questions like that? Because, I mean, you could also come up with answers that would say, well, as we said in the report, you know, I mean, he could --

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That doesn't look like that's what he wants to do, and bringing someone with him, I think it's a back up to say, I can't say this, right? Now, see, he said, too. It's not just me.

So, look, this entire thing is theater. All the fundraising emails are already written and ready to go out tomorrow from all the new superstars on that committee that are going to get their five minutes.

You know, Jackie Speier said she had a fantasy that Robert Mueller was just going to read the report. I mean, this is -- it's -- I keep waiting to hear Sunny and Cher because this is Groundhog Day. Like, this is just the same story over and over again. Robert Mueller is going to come up, the country is going to go, whatever, and Democrats have blown their chance.

BORGER: But the most --

SHIELDS: -- to actually have an agenda. And this is what their agenda is.

BORGER: But most of the country hasn't read the Mueller report.

SHIELDS: And they're not going to read it tomorrow, either.

BORGER: Well, but they may have it read to them and may see it coming from a credible witness, Robert Mueller, and so there may be some questions as Kirsten points out he can answer. For example, did you -- was the president a corporative witness here?

POWERS: Or is that how the president characterized the report accurate?

BORGER: Right. Or how Barr --

POWERS: I don't know why he wouldn't be able to answer the questions.

SHIELDS: I love Democrats want to do this. I love that they think they will get something out of it. They are taking a round peg and they're asking Robert Mueller to slam it in the square hole --

BORGER: Not necessarily.

SHIELDS: -- that the public doesn't care about anymore. They moved on from this.

And the Democratic Party -- there is a lot of things they could be talking about. Their presidential candidates want to talk about something else. The House Democrats won't let them do it, and they're going to try and make a huge circus tomorrow and make a name for themselves. And I think it's harmful for the party and I think -- I'm kind of happy.

COOPER: We want to talk about this more. We're going to take a short break. We'll have more on the testimony straight ahead, especially on the House Intelligence Committee which will devote to the obstruction of justice portion of the Mueller report. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:31:45] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back. Before the break, I made a mistake. I said we'd be talking now about the House Intelligence Committee and obstruction. Obviously, I misspoke. It is, of course, the House Judiciary Committee and obstruction. Intelligence committee is going to be focusing on Russian interference in the election.

A key aspect of the allegations of obstruction is the President's firing of FBI Director James Comey. His dismissal led Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Mueller as head of the Russia probe. And I spoke with Director Comey earlier this year on the second anniversary of his firing.


COOPER: You were at an FBI bureau, I think in Los Angeles, and you actually saw it on CNN that you had been fired. I'm wondering two years later with all that's happened, how do you look back on that moment?

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I didn't expect to be fired, never entered my mind. I knew by that point the President didn't like me, but I thought that's OK because that will keep a separation. So it still feels a little bit numbing, frankly, and like it happened yesterday and a lifetime ago.


COOPER: No deal there'll be a great deal for the committee to go over with Robert Mueller. Back now with our political and our legal teams.

Kirsten, you know, right before the break, Mike raised a totally valid argument and that this is actually bad for Democrats that they're not talking about creating jobs, they're not talking about climate change or whatever it is they want to talk about or the political -- the presidential candidates want to talk about. They're focused on Mueller and the argument is the country heard this and it's made up their mind at the very least.

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they can do both. So I think they can do this. They can do their job of oversight, which is actually their job. It's not just about what the -- what American people are interested or not interested in. It's about whether or not, you know, this actually, like I said, was this an impeachment referral?

I mean, these are reasonable questions that need to be asked and I think that doing oversight is not a problem. And I think that they can continue to talk about the other issues that are being talked about in the 2020 race and they can do this.

COOPER: Elliot, every congressperson I've talked to who is going to be asking questions tomorrow, and I think I've talked to three of them, they've all said, oh, it's not going to be, you know, Congress people making a long statement so that they can get on their local news or whatever it may be. Do you buy that? Can they resist that? ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL, OBAMA ADMIN.: Probably not, but it's remarkable that they've done these prep sessions. Look, you know, I worked up there for awhile. It's very rare that they prepare more than the morning of the hearing. So that the fact --

COOPER: OK, that's frightening.

WILLIAMS: Welcome to the thing sausage made, Anderson. No, but there's a lot -- I mean, literally, this is -- because there's a lot. They're pulled in a lot of different directions if a lot of thing is going on. It's very rare to see hours and hours of members of Congress doing prep sessions for hearings.

And so, I would hope that they could be disciplined because I think both sides have a story to tell if the Republicans truly believe that this is a collusion and witch hunt nonsense, you know, and if the Democrats truly believe as the report says that there were allegations of crimes and (INAUDIBLE) in the record.

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, can I just say, Jeff, I think that everyone is focused and I understand why on what the President did and what his campaign did. But the Mueller report was pretty extraordinary in the detail in which it laid out what the Russians did. And, you know, the notion that Congress shouldn't be exploring this and exploring it in depth.

[20:35:02] And that the FBI shouldn't somehow have opened an investigation when they got wind of the fact that the Russians were what turned out to be running a full scale operation against our election.

This seems like something whether people are interested or not, it does seem like something Congress should be investigating and it does seem like something the American people should be concerned about.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the question is the timing, really. Because there were a lot of people who are saying why couldn't they have gotten Mueller sooner? I think I'm one of them. And -- I am one of them.

And I think there was this long negotiation that went on and they've got this time limit now that is sort of imposed by Bob Mueller while I'll give you three hours here and two hours there and my question is, to those of you familiar with congressional hearings, once he's up there, can he just -- he can't just get up and leave if they are not done.

WILLIAMS: I mean, I guess they technically could issue a subpoena for him. But, you know, David, you raise a really excellent point about this two bites at the apple question, can Congress and should Congress still be looking into it? Conservative Republicans haves been saying, well, you don't get -- the President tweeted it I think yesterday, you don't get two different bites at the apple. No, it's a different apple. Congress has an investigative mandate. They have an oversight mandate and this is squarely both on the intelligence side and the obstruction of justice side squarely within what Congress ought to be doing. And they can walk and chew gum at the same time.

AXELROD: And the FBI director testified just this day that the Russians are still active and we have the President of the United States dismissing it as a hoax and as a witch hunt and, you know, this is deeply concerning. It should be.

COOPER: So, Mike, do you think the Republicans on the committee, do they just try to interrupt the flow of whatever question -- because clearly Democrats are going to try to get specific moments, you know, five key moments that they believe show obstruction and have Mueller either read from the report or, you know, explain what happened in those moments the President kind of tell Don McGahn to call up Rosenstein having fire Mueller, to fake records about it.

Do the Republicans just try to interrupt the flow of that or do they have launch broadsides on the FBI and, you know, Peter Strzok and the lovers and is that where they go?

MIKE SHIELDS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think there is a little bit of theater that comes into these hearings. We saw it with the first Kavanaugh hearing, not the second one, but the first one where Cory Booker and Kamala Harris were sort of show boating. There's going to be a lot of show boating and interrupting and that's what happens in these hearings.

I think Republicans, the key thing that they're really going to focus on is the inception of the entire investigation. What was the information that Robert Mueller got? How did he handle Peter Strzok before he fired him? Did he then use that evidence as a part of what he did that you mentioned the page, excuse me, the Steele dossier 12 times. You know, what's the process you went through in verifying all that sort of thing?

They're going to try and take apart how this whole thing got started in the first place. I think that some of them will get sidetracked in saying, you know, this was a partisan thing. I think they'd be better to focus on that, because then there are real questions there that need to be answered.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: But wouldn't it be a better idea for the Republicans to embrace part of the Mueller report? Wouldn't you say you had an unlimited budget, you issued thousands of document requests --

SHIELDS: I mean, Doug Collins -- the ranking member actually said publicly first that Mueller should testify. The ranking member on the committee called for Mueller to testify to do what --

TOOBIN: Well, yes.

COOPER: So what's your -- TOOBIN: The point is that, you know, Director Mueller, you had an unlimited budget, you had any every FBI agent you wanted and after two years you found absolutely no evidence that the President colluded in a conspiratorial way with the Russian government. Yes. And, you know, that's a very good question.


SHIELDS: You just said one other question, I guarantee.

WILLIAMS: No, no, no. But to which he responds actually I did find evidence of, number one, collusion isn't a crime as --

TOOBIN: I said criminal conspiracy. I know I --

WILLIAMS: But they would use the word --


WILLIAMS: He would then correct them.

AXELROD: He also used -- Jeff, he also said we didn't find sufficient evidence, which is different than saying we didn't -- you said you didn't find any evidence.

TOOBIN: Well, let's see if he corrects. I mean, he's going to have to decide how much he wants to push back from that. But, I mean, I just think there's a lot there for Republicans to -- that without going on to nutty conspiracy theories about --

COOPER: Kirsten, I think one of the questions you said that Democrats should ask is, you know, the statements the President has been making, you know, is he not telling the truth? Is he wrong?

POWERS: It's an accurate representation.

COOPER: Right. But I don't -- there's a way for Mueller to answer that without Mueller confronting the President calling him a liar. He can essentially say, well, if you read the report, you know, he can have a long drawn out --

POWERS: But if you ask him like, you know, if you read the way the President hears some quotes, for how the President has represented this, you know, and is this correct, yes or no?

COOPER: Which is probably a good reason why they practiced, because how they ask the questions can be critical. I want thank all of you.

Still to come, we're going to talk with someone who's worked at the FBI along with Robert Mueller when he was director. He shares what he expects to see tomorrow.


[20:43:41] COOPER: Robert Mueller got some strong words appraised from the current FBI director today during testimony on Capitol Hill. Christopher Wray said of his predecessor that Mueller was "the consummate professional and straight shooter." He also said he had no reason to doubt the integrity of Mueller's report.

Joining me now is someone else who worked alongside Robert Mueller, James Baker, the former general counsel of the FBI. He served in the counsel's department while Mueller was director.

Aaron Zebley, who is going to be appearing alongside Mueller, you worked with him I think both at the FBI and of the Special Counsel's Office.


COOPER: The President is calling him a never Trumper. He's been a long-time aid of Robert Mueller, I mean, going back many, many years. Does it make sense to you and/or can you explain why you think Mueller would want him by his side?

BAKER: Well, Aaron is great. I mean, first of all, he's a great person. He is an excellent lawyer. He's super nice, low ego, team player, good judgment. I mean, you know, I just can't stop saying enough thing -- good things about Aaron.

Look, if I was in Director Mueller's shoes, I'd be wanting somebody like Aaron with me because you don't know what level of detail they're going to try to go into. And who can remember everything that's in 448-page report plus all the other stuff that they have.

So, I'm sure he's there to help Director Mueller like he has for many years. I don't see this as a big deal. I don't know what, you know, the President and others are complaining about. It makes sense to me.

COOPER: We looked at a lot of Mueller's past testimony and he's very deliberate. He -- you know, if there's a fact he doesn't know, he says I will get back to you.

[20:45:07] BAKER: Like in this context, getting back --

COOPER: Right, getting back doesn't -- it's not the same.

BAKER: It is -- it's not going to happen. Yes.

COOPER: This is when he was FBI director.

BAKER: Right. And normally when a person like that is testifying, they can say, well, we'll take that as a question for the record and my agency will get back to you because you because you have a whole staff of people like I used to do --

COOPER: Right.

BAKER: -- answering those kinds of questions. That's not going to happen here. So to short circuit that, I'm expecting that Director Mueller wants Aaron there.

COOPER: There are certainly a lot of expectations, I mean, on all sides of this, however you look at it. What are you expecting tomorrow?

BAKER: People need to lower their expectations in my view. I mean, in terms of what they're going to get out of Director Mueller, I think it's at least from Democrats or with respect to the Democrats.

COOPER: Right. If the Democrats are expecting this to be a tied changing thing, it's not.

BAKER: No, that's not going to happen, I don't think. I mean, I think that the main thing to me is just have Director Mueller put sections of the report in front of him and having read them because the report itself, especially the obstruction part, is so damming and it's so concerning and it should be so unacceptable to Americans.

COOPER: It is incredible when -- I mean, which is last night, reading how the President, again, tried to get the -- you know, tried to get Rosenstein to fire -- tried to get McGahn --

BAKER: Yes, yes.

COOPER: -- to call Rosenstein to fire Mueller and then tried to get McGahn to deny it when the story leaked.

BAKER: And create a false record about it.

COOPER: And create a false record. That the President of the United States is trying to get his legal counsel to create a false record is extraordinary.

BAKER: Yes. I mean, I just reread the whole volume two over the weekend again and it's just -- it's so shocking and it's so -- it should be unacceptable in America for any organization to be run that way. If these people are running a major corporation or some other type of organization, it would be just that they -- it would be shocking.

COOPER: The --

BAKER: And also, the number of people who don't listen to the President who take -- who don't do what he wants --

COOPER: Right, yes. Right, Corey Lewandowski --


COOPER: --Dearborn.

BAKER: Right, yes. It's amazing. I mean, he just -- he wants to portray this image of being in charge and yet people ignore him fairly frequently.


BAKER: And they lie to each other. They like to the public. They lie constantly internally. COOPER: Obviously, Republicans, you know, have a different strategy going into this. Do you see them -- I mean, if they go after the FBI, if they are looking into the origins of the investigation, is that something Mueller can talk about? I assume he can.

BAKER: Well, I don't know. Well, he wasn't there when the whole thing started. That was, you know, many, many months. That was, what, July of 2016? He got there in May of 2017. So in terms of the origin of the investigation, he obviously learned a lot about what we did back in those times but he wasn't there.

And so, you know, yes, I expect that the Republicans will try to attack the origin of the investigation and also the investigators, the Mueller team, the angry Democrat supposedly and so and so.

COOPER: Right. Peter Strzok and Page and the lovers as President Trump keeps calling them. Do you think --

BAKER: Which is extremely just offensive and beneath the dignity of his office, I just have to say.

COOPER: Right.

BAKER: I mean, his constant -- his constant way of referring to American citizens in that way is deeply offensive.

COOPER: Yes. But, I mean, we have seen there is no dignity in this. So, in the office these days which is a sad thing. Well, we'll be watching tomorrow.


COOPER: We'll talk to you more, I guess.

BAKER: I'll be here.

COOPER: All right. Thank you, James Baker.

BAKER: Thank you.

COOPER: Just ahead tonight, something Republicans and Democrats agreed on today, the action they took on behalf of some of this country's bravest man and women, the 9/11 first responders. We have details in that ahead.


[20:52:37] COOPER: Tomorrow's Mueller hearings are, of course, the topic here in Washington tonight. Chris Cuomo joins us. I sense you're going to be exploring this as well. Do you think this matter? I mean, do you think -- you know, Mike Shields was on earlier and made the point that he thinks this is great for Republicans, bad for Democrats.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: Well, the one thing that's bad for everybody is when we hear a partisan say, this is really bad for the other side, so I'm kind of happy. That's got to end. Decency has to be injected back at this and that's what tomorrow is about. I think it's a win for us. Only 3 percent of people read the report.

COOPER: Right.

CUOMO: And I'm not saying they should have. It's dense and you feel like nothing was going to happen anyway.

COOPER: A single space 448-page.

CUOMO: Yes, it was a lot. But, they're going to hear things tomorrow that are different if not said differently than they've heard in the past, so that's good.

COOPER: Even if it's said --I mean, just the way Mueller speaks, it's not histrionics, it's not dramatic, but it's credible. I mean, I think, you know --

CUOMO: Yes. And I'm happy he's got a second chair tomorrow. This is a lot of information to remember. It's good for him to have somebody. He should be the one answering the question. This should have happened sooner. I say that tomorrow is about the Democrats.

They either -- because I don't know how this affects the President adversely. His base isn't going to move no matter what is said. And I don't know what actions they're taking, except the obvious.

The Democrats have to decide after tomorrow, soon, is it time to walk the walk or do we have to find something else for our election to be about? Because they can't keep saying that he's obstructed justice, he's abused his power, and not start an impeachment inquiry. So tomorrow is make or break for them.

COOPER: Yes. What are you going to be focusing on? Anything in particular?

CUOMO: Best-case scenario, worst-case scenario in terms of how we monitor tomorrow.

COOPER: All right. Chris, we'll be looking for it. Thanks very much. That's just in about 6 minutes from now.

Coming up, an update on a story that we have followed closely, obviously, the reauthorization of the 9/11 Victims' Compensation Fund. As you know, comedian Jon Stewart and about a dozen first responders were on the Hill today as the Senate voted. We'll have the latest on that when we return.


[20:58:11] COOPER: After months of debate, testimony, and public shaming, the bill to permanently provide money for victims of 9/11 has passed Congress and heads to the President, who's expected to sign it.

Now, sources at the White House tell CNN they are planning a signing event with first responders after the Senate passed the Victim Compensation Fund today on a vote of 97 to 2. Republicans Mike Lee and Rand Paul were the only senators to oppose the bill.

Certainly a lot of emotion, understandably, from two people who helped push this bill into law, comedian Jon Stewart and first responder John Field (ph). They and about a dozen first responders, who championed this bill, were on Capitol Hill to watch what was a momentous day for them.

Last month, I spoke with first two responders working to get this bill passed. Over the years, they and others have made a lot of trip to Congress, held meetings with officials, all to get the continued support for those who have fallen ill or are living with illnesses that they got from the work they did at ground zero.


LT. MICHAEL O'CONNELL, FDNY (RET.): We're firemen, we're police officers, we're construction workers, we're correction officers, and this isn't our job to come down here and fight. You know, we did our job on 9/11, in one of the darkest days of this country. We went down there and we fought like so many did to build this country back up.


COOPER: Today, Jon Stewart told reporters, "We can never repay all that the 9/11 community has done for our country, though we can't stop penalizing them."

The news continues. I want to hand it over to Chris for "Cuomo Prime Time". It starts now. Chris?

CUOMO: All right. Thank you, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to "Prime Time" from Washington, D.C. The waiting is over. Robert Mueller will tell you what he found and why.

Politicians on the right and left will try to find advantage. Will his answers have people yelling for impeachment or just yawning? One of the leading progressives who is going to question the former special counsel is here.

And, second, only to your interest in hearing from Mueller what matters most about our government and democracy. The Democrats really do have the most on.