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tv   The Lead With Jake Tapper  CNN  May 29, 2019 1:00pm-2:00pm PDT

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are you willing to counter president trump? are you willing to speak truth to power, if you will? look, this is where mattis, the last secretary of defense, had to resign. he felt he couldn't live with what the president decided. what will be shanahan's red line. how far is he willing to publicly differ with the president. >> got it. barbara starr, thank you. and thank you for being with me. i'm brooke baldwin. "the lead with jake tapper" starts right now. bob mueller did not specifically mention president donald trump by name, but he sure seemed to have a message for him. "the lead" starts right now. after two years of waiting, the special counsel finally talks about the russia probe publicly. he does not clear the president of a crime. and the white house is attempting an, "eh, old news" strategy. mueller's between the lines message, it's up to congress to take action against president trump or not, so what will democrats do? house speaker nancy pelosi just weighed in.
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what did she say? and some 2020 presidential candidates now calling for impeachment proceedings after mueller's statement. one of the democratic hopefuls who has not gone that far will join me live. has he changed his mind? welcome to "the lead." i'm jake tapper. we begin today with our politics lead. breaking his silence. after two years of quietly and methodically investigating russian election interference, special counsel robert mueller today spoke publicly on the subject for the first time and while mueller did not specifically call out president donald trump by name, he did refute many of the false claims the president has been peddling, including the idea that the investigation should never have even begun, that it was a witch hunt. >> russian intelligence oficers, who were part of the russian military, launched a concerted attack on our political system. they needed to be investigated and understood. >> or the notion that this was
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an investigation conducted by a partisan gang of angry democrats, looking to stage a coup against the trump presidency. >> these individuals who spent nearly two years with the special counsel's office were of the highest integrity. >> or perhaps most importantly, mueller totally exonerated the president on obstruction of justice in president trump's view. >> if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. >> mueller also making clear today he views the 448-page report as his testimony and has zero interest in speaking further with congress. as cnn's sara murray now reports for us, mueller, a former fbi director, made sure to end his ten-minute statement where the investigation began. russian election interference and the ongoing threat from the kremlin. >> reporter: after two years of complete silence on the investigation, special counsel robert mueller chose his words
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carefully, emphasizing he did not clear president trump of obstructing justice. >> if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. we did not, however, make a determination as to whether the president did commit a crime. >> reporter: instead, mueller says he was unable to make that decision due to department of justice regulations. >> under long-standing department policy, a present president cannot be charged with a federal crime while he is in office. that is unconstitutional. charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider. >> reporter: mueller's own words a sharp contrast to attorney general william barr's earlier suggestion that the justice department's office of legal counsel or olc guidelines did not weigh heavily on mueller's decision. >> we specifically asked him about the olc opinion and whether or not he was taking the position that he would have
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found a crime, but for the existence of the olc opinion. and he made it very clear, several times, that that was not his position. >> reporter: today, mueller appeared to point the obstruction issue to congress, ramping up the pressure on capitol hill for impeachment. >> the opinion says that the constitution requires a process other than the criminal justice system to formally accuse a sitting president of wrongdoing. >> reporter: mueller also making clear that his personal preference is not to testify, but if forced, he'll stick within the bounds of his report. >> we chose those words carefully and the work speaks for itself. and the report is my testimony. >> reporter: after two years of attacks from president trump -- >> when they talk about obstruction, we fight back! and you know why we fight back? because i knew how illegal this whole thing was. it was a scam. >> reporter: mueller defended his investigation, saying the obstruction probe was paramount.
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>> when the subject of an investigation obstructs that investigation or lies to investigators, it strikes at the core of the government's effort to find the truth and hold wrongdoers accountable. >> and despite trump's constant refrain -- >> i call it the russian hoax! it's a total witch hunt. >> reporter: -- mueller's team found evidence that the russians did try to influence the 2016 election to help trump and hurt hillary clinton. >> russian military officers launched a concerted attack on our political system. the releases were designed and timed to interfere with our election and to damage a presidential candidate. >> the president tweeting today, there was insufficient evidence and therefore in our country, a person is innocent. the case is closed. but while mueller did not charge the trump campaign for conspiring with russians, he did not say there was no evidence. only -- >> there was insufficient evidence to charge a broader
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conspiracy. >> reporter: now, bob mueller said today that he was going to resign and go back to private life. we are now learning that it will be his last day today as special counsel. his spokesman, peter carr, is confirming that. and jake, also, as he was giving this comments today, he was sure to go out of his way to thank the members of his team for their integrity and fairness. i have to imagine he felt that was important to do in light of all of these attacks that the president lobbed against him over the past two years. >> let's chew over all of this, but sarah, let me ask you, what's the bottom line? what's the most important thing that mueller said today? >> i think the most important thing is, you know, if we could have cleared the president of committing a crime, we would have done that. he was very clear that he felt it was sort of out of his ability to make that decision, to be able to fully exonerate the president because of the evidence that he had available. and he felt it was out of his bounds to say that the president committed a crime. it would have been unfair and unconstitutional. and you know, if you read the report, you can say, there were a number of instances where the
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president acted in a way that certainly looked like obstruction of justice. >> what do you think, carrie? what do you think the bottom line was for mueller? what did he want us to walk away with? >> i think, first of all, he wanted us to walk away and know that the russian interference effort was serious. he made that point specifically. >> and ongoing. >> and ongoing. so i think he wanted to make that national security point for the country and make sure that that doesn't leave our consciousness as we talk about the politics and everything else. but this obstruction point is also impossible to look away from, because i think what he was really saying is congress has a job to do. and he, as a prosecutor, as a justice department prosecutor under the regulations has done as much as he possibly can. he can't do more. it's not prosecutor's job to charge a president of the united states. >> and juliette, mueller said nice things about attorney general barr, and suggested whatever disagreements he had were in good faith. but if you look at what mueller
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said about how much he relied on the office of legal counsel guidance that a sitting president cannot be indicted and what the attorney general said in april, there's a real disconnect. i think we have the sound of the attorney general, question three, if we can run that. >> he made it very clear, several times, that that was not his position. he was not saying that but for the, olc opinion, he would have found a crime. he made it clear that he had not made the determination that there was a crime. >> that a contradiction, do you think? >> absolutely. and i think people like to always say that mueller is not political. i think he's incredibly political. in a good way. i don't mean that in a bad way, that he did not want the story to be, barr completely misled the american public. he wanted the story to be, basically, volume i and volume ii. volume i, the russians, as carrie was saying. do not forget volume i. it is the russians, they will continue to do it, they will undermine our democracies, not
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just here, and other democracies. and then essentially volume ii that essentially says, i'm done. i did what i needed to do. it is now a different judgment, a different jury that has to determine where are you going to take the findings of volume ii. so i viewed him as being very political and that's okay, right? he want dss -- there's other audiences. it's either congress or the american public. >> and jeremy diamond, you cover the white house. the white house put out a fund-raising email declarie ini this as a hoax and a witch hunt. and nourithe president tweeted, nothing changes from the mueller report. there was insufficient evidence and therefore in our country a person is innocent. the case is closed. thank you. relatively strained comment from the president. >> for now. but there was a lot of misleading commentary in the president's tweet there, where he seems to suggest that the only reason that bob mueller concluded or couldn't conclude that he committed a crime on obstruction of justice was because of insufficient evidence. that was mueller's justification on the question of a conspiracy with the russians to interfere
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in the 2016 election. as far as obstruction of justice, mueller was very clear that it was because of the olc opinion and because of this idea that he didn't want to accuse a sitting president of a crime when he didn't have the opportunity to defend himself in that way. but sarah sanders also today was repeatedly making this claim that it was a question of insufficient evidence. and i think that it comes back to the idea of, why did bob mueller want to deliver these remarks today? one of the reasons, clearly, is because he feels like a lot of the central points of his report were lost on the american public, in part because of the president's efforts and his allies' efforts to really obfuscate the general conclusions of that and to try to portray them in a much more favorable light to himself zp. >> and perhaps the other reason, justin amash, republican congressman from michigan, he tweeted, "the ball is in our court, congress," that's his interpretation of this. a lot of house democrats agree with that. do you agree? is that one of the messages that he was saying? the ball's in your court, congress? >> absolutely. what special counsel was
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describing was constitutional responsibilities. he viewed it as a prosecutor under department of justice regulations that it was outside the bounds of his constitutional sphere to be able to make a recommendation to charge the president with a crime. but then it is congress' job. and congressman amash is standing up and saying that, as a republican, that congress has a job to do. and they can't shirk their constitutional responsibilities. the other point is that the statement of special counsel mueller shows that it is impossible to square that with what the attorney general said in his press conference and his letter, and that's just apparent now. the special counsel was specific to what he put in his report and that is just not what the attorney general led the american people to believe. >> and sarah sanders was on a different channel, the president's favorite channel, saying there was no collusion, mueller made it very clear, very specifically, there's no collusion. actually, mueller says, i'm not talking about collusion in this report, because it has no legal term. i'm talking about conspiracy. and the conclusion is not that there was none, but that there was insufficient evidence of it
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to bring a prosecutable case. >> absolutely. if he could have exonerated the president -- i thought that was just a key line, "if i could have exonerated the president, i would have." >> to say that out loud. >> of course you would have! it's up to us to read the silences. mueller has given us enough. it means, their failure to exonerate the president or their not exonerating the president means that there is something to move forward with. now, whether that is the cases that are ongoing, whether it's impeachment, that's up to us. and i think, just going back to the russia issue on volume i, because we cannot forget volume i, because we have an election coming up. he was clear to say that was the reason why he indicted all of these russian entities, because even if we can't get them into court, you're basically naming and shaming them. >> and they're doing it again. he's made it very clear, as have trump administration officials, if not the president himself. the white house says, bring on the impeachment proceedings. it could actually help the president, they believe. should democrats proceed with
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caution? next, i'll talk to presidential candidate and member of the house judiciary and intelligence committees, congressman eric swalwell. stay with us. fidelity is redefining value for investors. introducing zero account fees for brokerage accounts. and zero minimums to open an account. we have fidelity mutual funds with zero minimum investment. and now only fidelity offers four zero expense ratio index funds directly to investors. because when you invest with fidelity, all those zeros really add up. ♪ so maybe i'll win ♪ saved by zero
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♪ thank you so much. battery charging. ♪ in our politics lead now, president trump watched robert mueller deliver his first public remarks on the investigation in years, from the white house residence today, sources tell cnn. and the president, as of now, has sent just one tweet with a fairly muted reaction. but a senior white house official predicts that the mueller statement will drive democrats towards impeachment and that will help the president, the official claims. cnn's abby phillip is live for us at the white house now. abby, what are sources telling you about how the president is feeling about mueller and today. >> reporter: earlier today, sources were telling us that the president was pretty even keeled about what was to come. and shortly after mueller gave
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his statement, white house officials were telling me that they felt that there was nothing to pit. one official described it as a nothing burger. and i think the sense that we are getting from the white house this afternoon is that they don't think that what mueller had to say really moved the ball in any substantiative way. however, to the extent that it might drive democrats toward impeachment, the response from president trump, the white house, and his allies is essentially, bring it on. a white house official telling me that this would be a great way for them to re-take the house of representatives, believing -- the white house believes that democrats will go too far on this. but there is a sort of lingering question about how the white house is describing all of this. sarah huckabee sanders basically said, you know, this is a done deal. if mueller had any evidence that president trump should have been charged with obstruction of justice in particular, he should have said so in his report. but, of course, mueller's made it clear that he couldn't accuse the president of obstruction of justice, because the president cannot be charged while in
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office. sarah sanders' response to that was that congress should not even bother to take it up, because that has already been investigated thoroughly by the special counsel. so there is a little bit of spin happening here, as the white house tries to reframe what robert mueller had to say. but at the end of the day, i think the president is looking forward to making this a political issue for 2020, believing that it will ultimately help motivate his base going into his re-election bid. jake? >> all right, abby phillip at the white house for us, thank you so much. we have some news breaking in our politics lead. just moments ago, the chairman of the house intelligence committee, adam schiff, democrat of california, responded to mueller's comments saying, "we look forward to mueller's testimony before congress. while i understand his reluctance to answer hypotheticals or deviate from the carefully worded conclusions he drew on his charging decisions, there are, nevertheless, a great many questions that mueller can answer that go beyond the report." and moments ago, house speaker nancy pelosi said it would be helpful for mueller to testify.
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joining me now is eric swalwell, democrat of california, who serves on both the judiciary and intelligence committees. congressman, thanks so much for stopping by. we appreciate it. >> of course. >> you have stopped short of calling for impeachment. given what you heard today, do you think it's time to initiate proceedings or are you still where you were? >> i'm preparing for impeachment, jake. no one can question the vigor i've shown to hold this president accountable, but unlike all of the other candidates in the presidential field, i would actually have to try to the case on the judiciary committee, and i take that seriously. so i want to make sure we have all the documents, we get all the witnesses first, and that starts with getting the full mueller report, having the special counsel testify, getting don mcgahn to come in, and we're working on all of that with oversight and winning court fights. but i'm certainly prepared. and when i go to court and when i was a prosecutor, i had my pencil sharpened, my subpoenas ready and my witnesses and exhibits ready to go because i knew i only had one shot and that's how i'm approaching this. >> i want to get your reaction to one key sentence that mueller
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had to say today. take a listen. >> if we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so. >> what was your reaction to that, sir? >> any other american would have been charged with a crime, is what the special counsel was saying. but the president is protected by a department of justice policy. now, i have said is that if elected as president, i would lift that policy on day one. the president, if he's so confident he didn't commit a crime and sarah sanders said that there was no obstruction, he should order the department of justice to lift that policy and see if bob mueller would find that he committed a crime. no other american would be treated above the law, jake. and this president seems to have think that he is. >> mueller made clear that he has no interest in testifying. do you think that he should be subpoenaed? and would closed testimony be acceptable to you on the intelligence committee? >> we're going to hear from special counsel mueller. i understand he's reluctant and
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that's, you know, his job is to be reluctant and be objective about this. our job is to be passionate and pursue his report. he's going to come in, i believe what will ultimately happen is the intelligence committee will hear about the counterintelligence mission below ground, not in the public, not to sacrifice sources and methods. but the judiciary committee will ultimately hear from the special counsel in public. and jake, what special counsel mueller did not say in his report is critical. which is, after 200 pages of contacts between the russians and the trumps that he laid out, he never said, these relationships ended. and that's what is really at stake. are there ongoing threats to our country because the president and his team are still in contact with the russians who are determined to attack us. >> but congressman, mr. mueller has said that his testimony is the report. and that if he's called to testify, basically, he's just going to read from his report. so why do you need him to
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testify? >> so he can read from his report. seeing is believing. and most americans -- look, my wife and kid -- my wife and i, we have a hard enough time getting our kids to school, feeding them, picking them up from day care, doing our own jobs, that's the story for most americans. but hearing bob mueller raise his right hand, testify to congress, seeing the news capture that, that would be quite illuminating for most americans rather than going and clicking through 400 pages of a report. that was done during watergate. i think that would be highly effective if he did that now. >> i want to ask you, you said as president you would eliminate the office of legal counsel memo that says a sitting president cannot be indicted. wouldn't that open up a can of worms in terms of anytime there's an investigation into the president, he really can't achieve anything for the country? i mean, one of the explanations for the part of the mueller report where president trump hears that the special counsel has been appointed and he says,
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we're f'd, except he doesn't use the word "f'd," one interpretation of that is, oh, my god, i'm not going to be able to accomplish anything for the american people because i'll be dealing with this investigation the whole time. wouldn't that be a potential problem? >> no, jake, i actually believe that president nixon demonstrated while he was president that he was under investigation and was able to work with congress to increase the minimum wage, to pass infrastructure bills and that a president under investigation can still work and get things done. i also believe, because of the transparency we have today, unlike ever in american history, that the scrutiny of the media would protect against any unlawful investigation or, you know, any coup attempt that i believe this policy in the past sought to protect against. and again, this president has demonstrated that this policy goes too far in the way that it protects him from being held accountable. >> congressman eric swalwell, democrat of california, thank you so much for your time. have fun out there on the campaign trail.
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president trump. he added that nobody is above the law. but the question for democrats is what to do next and it is dividing the caucus in the house of representatives. let's chat about this. sung minh, nadler is not taking it off the table, but he really seems to be walking a tight rope here. what's going on? why not have impeachment proceedings or why not just say, we're not going to do it? >> because the leadership from speaker pelosi on down are still very treading carefully around this question of impeachment, because they know how politically explosive it can be. they know it's a divisive question. but there's no doubt that mueller's public comments today, even though he's, in essence, repeating just what is in his 450-page report, has really sharpened and increased the pressure on the leadership to at least start impeachment proceedings. i thought it was really interesting how in the last couple of weeks, house democrats have started to make a little bit of a distinguishing factor between impeachment and just starting the impeachment inquiry, impeachment proceedings. so i think you're seeing more and more democrats align behind that position. and in turn, that's really increasing the pressure on the
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democratic leadership. >> alexandria rojas, you're with the grassroots progressive group, i want you to take a listen to house speaker nancy pelosi just a few minutes ago talking about what to do next. >> we are on a path that we would hope that if it is justified for the impeachment, that it would be clear to the senate, as well. >> she seems to be saying that they're not going to go forward unless the senate is there, and the senate is definitely not there. is that going to upset grassroots democrats? >> i think instead of worrying about the optics of impeachment or whether or not it's going to poll well or if it's the politically expedient thing to do, i think congress has to uphold its constitutional responsibility to hold the president accountable. so i think grassroots activists have been saying for a long time that we need to impeach, just as democrats like alexandria ocasio-cortez, illeana presley and rashida tlaib, there is no
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reason for us not to walk and chew gum at the same time. and it's on democratic leadership to show the country they aren't going to operate from a place of fear and be afraid of what donald trump and the republicans are going to say, but are actually going to do what is morally right and what is constitutionally the right thing to do, which is hold the president, the most powerful person in our country, to account. because if we don't do that be what is to say that this isn't going to happen again? it's setting a dangerous precedent if they don't do something now. >> christine, you're the pollster at the table. house leadership is not on that page. house leadership is like, we have to build a case, basically, is what they're saying. is there real reason to think that if democrats proceed with impeachment, that it could hurt democrats? >> well, let's look back to the last time impeachment was tried. you had republicans in the 1998 midterms sort of suffer, not really make gains. in fact, sort of lose seats. you had newt gingrich having to step down because voters said, look, we get that bill clinton committed perjury, he did a bad
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thing, but we don't care. we want the economy doing well and we don't like that you as congress spent so much time on impeachment. so i think pelosi is taking the longer view and saying, i would much rather be able to get this president voted out of office over an issue like health care than have an issue like impeachment potentially jeopardize our party's ability to get him out of office. what's fascinating about the politics of today is bob mueller got up and basically said, to paraphrase dr. seuss, i meant what i said, and i said what i meant. go read the report 100%. he was very clear, there's nothing different about the substance about what we know today compared to yesterday. the only thing different is than the optics. that's why you pressed congressman swalwell, if mueller comes to testify, he's going to say, read the report. he said, i want it come to could have his mouth and be on television, because that potentially changes the politics. we'll see the mueller talking on tv changes the political calculation, if him saying what
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was already written changes anybody's minds, but i'm skeptical that it will. >> i can never tell, jeremy, you cover the white house, i can never tell when they say things like, impeachment will be great for us, i can never tell when they're lying or if that's true. do you think they think impeachment will help them? >> i think some of the president's advisers believe that. i don't think it's a unanimous upon by any stretch. but i've been talking to white house officials and sources close to the campaign all day. and one of the key messages that i've taken away is this notion that they believe that what mueller said today doesn't necessarily change anything, but that it ramps up the pressure on democrats. and we're seeing that debate now play out once again, because of what mueller did today, because of the spotlight that he's shining once again on this question of impeachment, and that is certainly something that the president's allies are welcoming. >> on the flip side, to jeremy's point, democrats are also aware that the president could use impeachment to his political benefit, because as we've seen, if that vote is successful in the house, the republican-led senate will not vote to convict
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him. so pelosi and the democratic leadership are concerned that the president could use that and say, complete and total exoneration. and they're very aware of that. >> and the president loves to have a foil. anytime the president can have a foil on the campaign trail, that's where he's at his best, where he can punch against something, and impeachment certainly could be that foil heading into 2020, and it certainly would motivate trump voters. the question is, would that ultimately make a difference in 2020? >> but i want to reiterate, which is what i think robert mueller tried to reiterate. i think two things. one, that this is putting politics aside. it's about the fact that a foreign adversary attacked our elections and is continuing to undermine the integrity of our democratic institutions. and we can't lose sight of that. i think point number two is he did not exonerate the president of the united states and every single day that the president sits in that office, he is obstructing justice, right? and we have an obligation, i think, as a democratic party to uphold democratic values. and if we are going to ask what the political calculation is here, i think we're repeating the same mistakes that we have in our past and we have to do what is right for millions of
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americans, especially when the president is literally having kids die under his watch. >> you're talking about the crisis at the border. everyone, stick around, going further than they've ever done before. how mueller's remarks are driving candidates on the 2020 campaign trail. stay with us. (singsong) budget meeting! sweet. if you compare last quarter to this quarter... various: mmm. it's no wonder everything seems a little better with the creamy taste of philly, made with fresh milk and real cream. (an(daughter) do mom, are you ok to play?e? with the creamy taste of philly, (mom) yeah honey, how about we play... princess and pirates? (announcer) imagine what you can do with more migraine-free days. (pirate) arr! (mom) en garde! (announcer) when you're not fighting through migraine imagine the possibilities. once-monthly emgality is used for the prevention of migraine in adults. it's specifically developed to help give you
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our 2020 lead now, senators kirsten gillibrand of new york and cory booker of new jersey. for the first time are calling for impeachment proceedings against president trump to begin. it's an issue most democratic candidates are have tried to avoid focusing on so far on the campaign trail, but now there's a growing field, saying therenos
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time to take more aggressive action over the mueller report. arlette saenz is in dallas with joe biden to see where he stands on this issue. >> reporter: wasting no time, many of the democratic 2020 primary field reacting to robert mueller's statement and rallying around the start of impeachment proceedings. >> i think it's a fair inference from what we heard in that press conference that bob mueller was essentially referring impeachment to the united states congress. >> reporter: other 2020 candidates quickly chiming in on twitter. cory booker going one step further than he's gone before, tweeting, robert mueller's statement makes it clear, congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately. elizabeth warren has been one of the 2020 democrats leading the charge on the impeachment front. >> if any other human being in this country had done what's documented in the mueller report, they would be arrested and put in jail. >> reporter: today, the
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massachusetts senator doubling down, tweeting, mueller's statement makes clear what those who have read his report know. it is an impeachment referral and it's up to congress to act. they should. one person not calling for impeachment proceedings, the front-runner, joe biden, whose campaign tells cnn, congress must do everything in its power to hold this administration to account. that is what congress is doing and should do, continue to investigate. and bernie sanders also stopping short of pushing for impeachment proceedings to start now. tweeting, if the house judiciary committee deems it necessary, i will support their decision to open an impeachment inquiry. and house speaker nancy pelosi is just responding now to those 2020 candidates who are calling for impeachment proceedings to begin. she said, quote, we won't be swayed by a few people who think one way or another, who are running for president, as much as i respect all of them and they have the freedom to be for impeachment, we have the responsibility to get a result
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for the american people and that's where we're going. the she noted that many of these candidates don't have a vote in the house of representatives. jake? >> all right. arlette saenz, thank you so much. earlier today, i sat down with democratic presidential candidate congressman seth moulton of massachusetts. in the past, he has said he supports impeaching president trump. today, he took it a step farther. >> it's all the more reason why we should be starting impeachment proceedings tomorrow. why we need to have this debate before congress and the american people. i don't think there's ever been a clear example of where there are so many questions out there about whether the president of the united states, the top official in the land, has committed crimes. >> what crimes are you talking about? >> well, look, it's very clear that mueller said, if it was -- after all of this investigation, if he didn't a commit a crime, then he would have told the american people. but that's not the case. now it's time for us in congress to do our job. >> you can watch my full interview with congressman seth moulton this sunday on "state of the union" at 9:00 a.m. and noon eastern. it's a tv exclusive. we're going to discuss his time
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in iraq as a marine and his struggle with posttraumatic stress. one member of congress is not chimie ining in on mueller majority leader mitch mcconnell, but his new position on one of his most controversial decisions ever has some calling him a hypocrite. stay with us. ♪ ♪ no matter when you retire, your income doesn't have to. see how lincoln can help ensure you still have income every month of your retirement, guaranteed, at they feel like they have to drink a lot of water. patients that i see that complain about dry mouth, medications seem to be the number one cause for dry mouth. dry mouth can cause increased cavities, bad breath, oral irritation. i like to recommend biotene.
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in our politics lead today, senate majority leader mitch mcconnell of kentucky making it crystal clear that he would treat a supreme court nominee from a fellow republican president differently than how he treated president obama's 2016 pick. judge merrick garland, for who mcconnell refused to even hear him. cnn's sunlen serfaty now reports
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from capitol hill. >> reporter: mitch mcconnell doing an abrupt about-face about a potential vacancy on the supreme court. >> the supreme court justice was to die next year, what would you do? >> we'd fill it. >> reporter: speaking at an event in his home state, the senate majority leader saying republicans would now fill a vacancy on the supreme court, even in the middle of a presidential election year. >> good morning! >> reporter: a striking difference from 2016 when he blocked president obama's supreme court nominee merrick garland after the sudden death of antonin scalia. >> it's the president's right to nominate a justice and it's the senate's right to act as a check and withhold its consent. >> reporter: mcconnell's argument then is that a nomination should not be considered in an election year. >> our view is this, give the
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people a voice in filling this vacancy. >> reporter: mcconnell aides telling cnn there's a distinct difference between now and then. in 2016, the white house had a democratic president and a republican-controlled senate. of both, pointing to this arge - statement in 2017. >> you would have to go back to the grover/cleveland administration in 1888 to find the last time a supreme court vacancy in the middle of a presidential election year was confirmed by the senate of an opposite party. >> reporter: lots of spin and parsing in that remark. the 2016 vacancy happened with the justice of antonin scalia in february, not the middle of any year. and while the vacancy justice anthony kennedy filled was created in 1987, he was confirmed in 1988, a presidential election year, the white house in republican hands, the senate in democratic ones. democrats on the campaign trail immediately crying foul. senator bernie sanders tweeting, quote, what a hypocrite. make no mistake, mcconnel's
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goal has always been the same. lifetime appointments for extreme right-wing judges by any means. while senator kamala harris mocking mcconnell for his reversal. >> well, he also said he will fill it, but that actually is the job of the president of the united states, not mitch mcconnell, so we also have to do a little division about the history of the responsibilities between the united states congress and the executive branch. >> there's, of course, no indication yet that there will be or potentially could be an opening on the supreme court next year, but if trump was to get another justice, it would give conservatives now potentially a 6-3 majority in the court. jake? >> all right, sunlen serfaty on capitol hill, thanks so much. let's dive into this again with my experts. kristin, i want you to take a listen to senator lindsey graham last october before he was made chairman of the senate judiciary committee, speculating as to what might happen if there were to be a vacancy in 2020 during the trump presidency. take a listen.
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>> if an opening comes in the last year of president trump's term, and the primary process has started, we'll wait to the next election. and i've got a pretty good chance being -- >> you're on the record. >> yeah. >> all right. >> hold the tape. >> so there were people who thought that mitch mcconnell's principle was actually a principle, i wonder what senator graham is going to do now. >> i imagine he would walk that back in the event that there was an actual vacancy. because, look, setting aside like the splitting hairs of mcconnell's statement in 2016 being about divided government, setting all of that aside, i remember being concerned, as a republican strategist, that when republicans in the senate were going to not have even hearings for merrick garland, how is that going to play in the suburbs? those sorts of things. and mitch mcconnell correctly gambled that this was not a thing that was going to be politically hurt republicans. and in fact would help republicans. so from a political perspective,
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the idea that republicans would pay some kind of price for a position changing and the senate confirming a justice put forward by a republican president, it strikes me as unlikely that this would hurt republicans in any way. if anything, i thought it was going to hurt them potentially in 2016, and it didn't. i certainly i do think it would hurt them in 2020. >> go on. i agree it was a victory on their part to do that. and it's completely unsurprising right now. this has been a coordinated strategy led by mitch mcconnell and the gop to obstruct since obama was in office. this goes well beyond the supreme court. and i think right now, we're seeing what they're doing and what was different from last time, which is using their power to secure more of it. and to make sure that they stay there. and so democratic leaders, i think, talking about working across the aisle or doing bipartisan, i think, sounds really, really nice in rhetoric, but what we're seeing is -- but i think the reality is is that we have a republican party this is in no interest, actually, compromising or working with us
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in good faith. and so to hear democrats like joe biden and nancy pelosi continue to say we're going to be able to get things done when we haven't for the past eight years, we've had a standstill congress, largely because the republican party is in opposition to even moving forward on a number of these issues, that i think people call bluff on that. and it's obviously not working. and when are we going to stop, you know, moving from a place of fear and going on the offensive at democrats? >> and the point alexandra's making is one i hear from a lot of democrats, especially on the progressive wing, is that democrats need to be as ruthless as republicans? >> exactly. and that's why going back to kristin's point, is that what mcconnell did, as audacious as it seemed at the time, it really worked. i remember chuck schumer out there every day hammering home the point that republican senate candidates would be hurt badly by mitch mcconnell's obstruction, and that was simply not the case. if you look politically, democrats have just fundamentally not cared about the courts as much as republicans, which is why the
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supreme court in having that vacancy open in 2016 just drove conservative voters much more than it did democratic voters. and i'm wondering if held the different this time. we've seen definitely much more of a concerted effort on the part of democrats to make their voters care about the courts, whether it's new groups on the left or having more democratic candidates talk about it. whether that makes a difference in 2020 is yet to be seen. >> all right, everyone, stick around, we'll be right back with more reaction to mueller from a member of the house splenlintele committee. stay with us. we used clorox clean-up on one side, and lysol daily cleanser on the other, then checked for hidden chemical residue with a bleach indicator test. i wouldn't even want to touch this. what do you do with that? like, who's going to eat that? unlike clorox clean-up, lysol daily cleanser only has three simple ingredients and leaves surfaces free from harsh chemical residue. definitely use that. it's clearly way better than this. yep! thank you. lysol. what it takes to protect.® - anncr: as you grow older, -your brain naturally
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if you so desire, you can follow me on facebok or on twitter @jaketapper. you can tweet the sho show @theleadcnn, we actually read them. our coverage on cnn on this big news day continues right now. thanks for watching. happening now, breaking news. not clearing trump. robert mueller breaks his silence, declaring publicly that his investigation did not clear president trump and stressing that if the special counsel's investigators had been confident the president did not commit a crime, the final report would have stated that. unable to charge. the special counsel explains why charging the president with a crime was never an option under justice department rules and contradicts statements by the attorney general. ready to beach. the special counsel again seems to be passing the baton to congress and more democrats are
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