LOL! CNN Preps Viewers for Likelihood Mueller Report Won’t Provide ‘All of the Answers We Want’

It must have been a devastating day for CNN on Wednesday as their crime and justice team reported that the Mueller report could be turned over to Attorney General Bill Barr as early as next week, signaling an end to a story that the Jeffrey Zucker-led network has obsessed over for years. In turn, it’ll place the onus on frequent CNN guest and Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) to keep the ball rolling.

Appearing alongside colleagues Laura Jarrett and Evan Perez on CNN Right Now, crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz must have drawn the short straw to be the bearer of bad news to Russia-obsessed liberals and anti-Trump Republicans just five minutes into the show.

 

 

Prokupecz noted that “we haven't seen the grand jury — the Mueller grand jury...since Roger Stone was indicted, so that's about a month ago” plus “other signs” but then dropped the key point that, well, things might not be the slam dunk that people might have hoped for (click “expand”):

PROKUPECZ: We've seen other signs that things may be wrapping up at Mueller's office and that is the most important thing, that after all this time, you know, we're all going to want answers and people will want to know what exactly went on here and I think everyone's been cautioning us that we may not get all of the answers we want, that this report may not contain the answers that people are looking for necessarily and the other thing I want to point out is that there are parts of this investigation that are still going to live well beyond Mueller. 

BRIANNA KEILAR: Sure. There's a bunch — there’s almost, in a way, like spin-off series, right? And one of the indications, you guys are saying this is the clearest indication yet, but if you're following this day in and day out as you are, you've been seeing other things, boxes of documents that have been going off to other prosecutors who will be looking off — looking at some of these spin-off cases. 

Perez picked up from there, citing cases in which prosecutors have left and that investigations have been divvied out to U.S. Attorney's offices for matters that, to be blunt, have little to do with Russia (ex. Cohen’s tax medallions and hush money payments).

Again bursting the bubble of The Resistance, Perez conceded that “Mueller is and certainly the Justice Department leadership is very aware that they cannot have a special counsel that goes on forever and so it was one of those things that they've been trying to do is figure out how to make sure that the nucleus of this investigation that Mueller was really appointed to do, right, which is what happened in 2016.”

Perez added that some investigations by counterintelligence agencies “that may be going on for years and years and we may never see simply because they want to see what the Russians are still up to.”

Alas, the trio and host Brianna Keilar still offered some hope for those hoping to see Trump and his allies wind up in deep legal peril (click “expand”):

PROKUPECZ: I want to make one other point that doesn't mean that the investigation of the President or the people associated with the President is in any way over because there is still very much a lingering problem for him out of New York — out of the Southern District of New York and I think as Evan has made this point several times that that is one of the things that concerns the President and the President's people much more. People closest, and then this Mueller investigation. That is where he is still facing a lot of jeopardy. He's already been implicated in one crime there. They’ve just now subpoenaed all of the financial records for the inauguration....They're still working through the Trump Organization and that investigation and the hush money payment investigation is still ongoing. So there's still a lot that's going to go on here. 

JARRETT: This’s a similar issue with Roger Stone, the President's longtime confidant and adviser. We saw the D.C. U.S. Attorneys joining that case so that it sort of provides a seamless transition for when Mueller is done with the investigation, you have someone already on the case who can take over and so all of the questions about whether there will be a superseding indictment whether Stone could have other charges he can face down the line, D.C. prosecutors can face all of that without Mueller.

To borrow a phrase from NewsBusters contributing writer P.J. Gladnick, here’s an exit question: What will CNN do to fill airtime once the Mueller report is submitted and parts or all of it becomes public?

To see the relevant transcript from February 20's CNN Right Now, click “expand.”

CNN Right Now
February 20, 2019
1:00 p.m. Eastern

BRIANNA KEILAR: We have the clearest indication yet that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is nearly done with his almost two-year investigation and that the endgame here is near. Sources say the Justice Department is preparing to announce as early as next week that Attorney General Bill Barr has received Mueller's confidential report and soon after that announcement, Barr will review the findings and then submit his own summary to Congress. We have crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz, Justice reporter Laura Jarrett, senior Justice correspondent Evan Perez with us. We know that the timing could change on this. Walk us through what, by regulation, the Attorney General has to do once he receives this report from Robert Mueller. 

EVAN PEREZ: So the way the regulations work for the Justice Department is that the Special Counsel submits a report to the Attorney General. It's a confidential report to the Attorney General and then he reviews it and decides what he can report publicly or to the members of Congress. Now, there's a lot of discussions going on inside the Justice Department about exactly how to handle this. We don't know how long the Mueller report is, what it's going to contain, per se, what the contours of it are and the findings, but we know that's what the Justice Department is prepared to do essentially to take a look at what he says and then submit something to members of Congress. Again, if you heard Bill Barr during his congressional testimony recently, he said he wants to make sure that as much of this is made public as provided to members of Congress. I think he wants that whatever goes to Congress is also going to be made public because he does know that there's a responsibility that the Justice Department has to provide some answers to exactly what Mueller has been up to. Here's what we expect. It will probably happen within the next week. The timing can slide before and after. The President, as you know, is leaving for a trip to Vietnam so I think people inside the Justice Department are very wary of stepping on the President as he makes an international trip. So I think this is how we expect it to happen. 

KEILAR: When — when Evan says there are discussions about how to handle this, I mean, that really comes down to what is in this report, right? Because if there's something that is very bad for the President, it would necessitate actually more of a public airing or a congressional airing, right? 

GARRETT: I think part of the challenge for the Justice Department is that typically they don't disclose what they call derogatory information about uncharged individuals, and under the regulations, the special counsel's office is supposed to explain all of the prosecution decisions, but also their declarations and decisions not to prosecute people. It may also have classified information in the report and so that's the challenge for Barr is figuring out exactly how to slice it and dice and what to give Congress and during his Senate confirmation hearings, he was questioned at length about this because, of course, Congress wants everything. Let's remind our you viewers of what exactly Barr said and how he tried to thread the needle on this. 

ATTORNEY GENERAL BILL BARR [on 01/15/19]: It's very important that the public and Congress be informed of the results of the special counsel's work. My goal will be to provide as much transparency as I can consistent with the law. I can assure you that where judgments are to be made I will make those judgments based solely on the law and I will not let personal, political or other improper interests influence my decision. 

JARRETT: So, once again there, consistent with the law, well, what exactly does that exactly mean for congress gets to see? 

KEILAR: No matter how you cut this, no matter what the findings are there is a huge appetite after two years and we've talked a lot about the findings. We've talked about every single move that is publicly available to us. A lot of folks look back at what happened with Hillary Clinton and her e-mail investigation, a model for when there was such an appetite, Shimon, to get information. In the end, Jim Comey, basically — he ended up speaking publicly and saying this isn't a case that anyone would really put up. However, he talked —

PEREZ: He stepped in it.

KEILAR: — he did. He wanted to make clear that what she'd done was not okay and they don't want a repeat of something like that. 

SHIMON PROKUPECZ: They do not. This is the big thing here. You know, as Evan and Laura know in talking to people at the Justice Department, they do not want to do what James Comey did. They do not want to hold a press conference and tell people everything that people connected to the President may have done wrong and what the President may have done in this case. If people are not charged, the Department of Justice has a long standing policy that they don't talk about anything that involves people who have not been charged and that's what we saw in the James Comey press conference, right and William Barr has said publicly that he was opposed — he was against to what James Comey did and Rod Rosenstein was against what James Comey did. Other members of the Department of Justice were very much against what Comey and as a result of that they were very concerned about doing and making that mistake again. The other thing, I think what’s important in all of this is this is the clearest indication to us that Mueller is done and that most of the investigative steps that he undertook are now complete. There are some indications that we haven't seen the grand jury — the Mueller grand jury that's been overseeing this investigation has not been seen since Roger Stone was indicted, so that's about a month ago. We've seen other signs that things may be wrapping up at Mueller's office and that is the most important thing, that after all this time, you know, we're all going to want answers and people will want to know what exactly went on here and I think everyone's been cautioning us that we may not get all of the answers we want, that this report may not contain the answers that people are looking for necessarily and the other thing I want to point out is that there are parts of this investigation that are still going to live well beyond Mueller. 

KEILAR: Sure. There's a bunch — there’s almost, in a way, like spin-off series, right? And one of the indications, you guys are saying this is the clearest indication yet, but if you're following this day in and day out as you are, you've been seeing other things, boxes of documents that have been going off to other prosecutors who will be looking off — looking at some of these spin-off cases. 

PEREZ: Yeah. We've seen some of the prosecutors who worked on the Mueller team depart the Mueller team. So we've been seeing sort of a willowing down of the team that's been doing this investigation and as Shimon and Laura have talked, I mean, I think one of the things that we've seen the pieces of this investigation have gone to other offices. We only know about a few of them, but there are many more pieces that have been farmed out to another U.S. Attorney’s office. Here is the deal. I think Mueller is and certainly the Justice Department leadership is very aware that they cannot have a special counsel that goes on forever and so it was one of those things that they've been trying to do is figure out how to make sure that the nucleus of this investigation that Mueller was really appointed to do, right, which is what happened in 2016 and — and sort of that part of the investigation is handled by Mueller and then the things that are more complicated and things that have to do with perhaps financial issues and perhaps can be handled by the Southern District of New York, by the U.S. Attorneys office in Washington, by the U.S. Attorneys office in Alexandria, Virginia, and all of those teams are still be working and then keep in mind there is a counterintelligence aspect to this that may be going on for years and years and we may never see simply because they want to see what the Russians are still up to. 

KEILAR: And I just want to loop in our viewers, again, real quick, that the Mueller investigation is preparing at the DOJ to receive this as early as next week. The clearest indication that is wrapping up. Shimon.

PROKUPECZ: I want to make one other point that doesn't mean that the investigation of the President or the people associated with the President is in any way over because there is still very much a lingering problem for him out of New York — out of the Southern District of New York and I think as Evan has made this point several times that that is one of the things that concerns the President and the President's people much more. People closest, and then this Mueller investigation. That is where he is still facing a lot of jeopardy. He's already been implicated in one crime there. They’ve just now subpoenaed all of the financial records for the inauguration.

JARRETT: For the inauguration.

KEILAR: For the inauguration. 

PROKUPECZ: They're still working through the Trump Organization and that investigation and the hush money payment investigation is still ongoing. So there's still a lot that's going to go on here. 

JARRETT: This’s a similar issue with Roger Stone, the President's longtime confidant and adviser. We saw the D.C. U.S. Attorneys joining that case so that it sort of provides a seamless transition for when Mueller is done with the investigation, you have someone already on the case who can take over and so all of the questions about whether there will be a superseding indictment whether Stone could have other charges he can face down the line, D.C. prosecutors can face all of that without Mueller.

KEILAR:. When — when the Special Counsel — when ultimately a report, I think of Bill Clinton when Congress was informed of what was going on, there were also supporting documents that weren't even in the report that were sort of housed away but that members of Congress could have access to. A lot of information — actually, information that might have actually motivated their impeachment more than what was in the actual report, so all of this extra information that maybe doesn't find a home in the report even to the DOJ, even to Bill Barr or in the report that Bill Barr sends to what happens to it. What happens to it?

PEREZ: Right. I mean, that’s — that's the big question members of Congress will have a lot to say about this because they're not going to like the answer. I think the initial answer from the Justice Department is, look, we will handle this like every other investigation. We’re going to tell you what steps we've taken and where we've declined to bring charges. We're not going to just let it all out. So I think you will see some litigation. 

KEILAR: They haven’t in other cases, though.

PROKUPECZ: Right! And there's going to be legal battles. 

PEREZ: There’s going to be legal battles.

PROKUPECZ: So, here’s the thing. In the Hillary Clinton investigation, they did wind up releasing a lot of 302s, a lot of information that they normally wouldn’t, so it could be that what they did there has set the precedent for legal battles going forward about getting our hands on the documents used in the Trump investigation and campaign investigation. 

JARRETT: I think this is also why you see this bipartisan push on Capitol Hill to have a different sort of regulation going forward. We see Republican Senator Chuck Grassley along with Senator Chris Coons saying, look, we need more than what the regulations provide because under the regulations, Barr can say Mueller is done, good-bye. I don't have to tell you any more. 

PEREZ: He can give them a one-pager and says, this is what Mueller did. Look at the indictments in the public record. 

PROKUPECZ: Who wants to say that won’t happen?

PEREZ: Right, I mean —

KEILAR: Oh, my god, can you imagine? 

PEREZ: — could you imagine —

KEILAR: I can’t — I cannot even imagine.

PEREZ: — if that would be the answer? 

KEILAR: And yet, I kind of can.

PEREZ: I think some important precedents have been set. I think the Justice Department as much as they would like to close the barn doors, you know, I think all the farm animals are already out. So, I mean —

KEILAR: They are, and running around. Running amok. 

PEREZ: — running amok.

KEILAR: You guys, thank you so much for great information and great analogies, as well, Evan, Laura, and Shimon.

PEREZ: Thanks.

NB Daily Congress Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Trump-Russia probe CNN Other CNN Video Government & Press Evan Perez Brianna Keilar Laura Jarrett Donald Trump Bill Barr
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