CNNers Burst Each Other’s Bubbles About Whether They’ll Get Answers on Collusion

The American news media and social media went from tweeting Friday afternoon about March Madness to going apoplectic over the conclusion of the Office of the Special Counsel led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller meant to investigate relations between the Trump campaign and Russia. For CNN’s The Situation Room, analysts and hosts took turns being — well — all over the map over what could be in the report.

 

 

Host Wolf Blitzer was beside himself, pleading with chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin for speculation about whether the Mueller Report will yield answers about collusion:

[C]an we draw conclusions about the principle focus of what the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation was all about? He was charged nearly two years ago with authorization to investigate any links or coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, in other words so called collusion. Can we draw any conclusions yet? 

Toobin replied that “[w]e can draw the conclusion that he is going to tell Congress what he found” but griped that Mueller has thus far “told an incomplete story” so he’ll need to answer “whether the Trump campaign was involved with the Russian government or Russian interest” and whether the President obstructed justice in the firing of James Comey.

Correspondent Sara Murray jumped in and agreed (click “expand”):

And I think as Toobin points out, yes, these indictments, have they have told a story and have been very complete. But there were in addition to this question of whether the President obstructed justice big questions in some of these cases that remain understand unanswered. We know they’ve charged Roger Stone with lying about his attempts to get in touch with Wikileaks. They never said whether they actually believe that Roger Stone was successfully in touch with Wikileaks or got any information from him. They certainly haven't charged him with it. In the Paul Manafort, they suggested he was colluding with the Russians in various courtroom instances. They also said he was sharing polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik. They didn't charge him with any of these things. They didn’t charge him with, you know, conspiracy. They charged him with financial crimes, so they never fully, you know, sort of closed this loop on whether they believe that Paul Manafort, in his role with the Trump campaign, was also colluding with the Russians. They sort of dropped these bread crumbs, but it will be very interesting and I think Congress certainly has every right to demand the answers to those questions. 

But crime and justice reporter Shimon Prokupecz swooped in with the back-breaking punch, informing his colleagues that he’s not sure “Mueller will even reach those conclusions” because “[t]his is a criminal investigation” and “[h]is whole point was investigating crimes, whether or not I can bring charges, whether or not I can indict people, whether or not there is more investigative steps that I need to take for criminal reasons.”

Prokupecz continued (click “expand”):

What the President may have done here, who he was communicating with, who Roger Stone was communicating with. That may be a political issue here. That’s not for Robert Mueller to decide or his team or the FBI to decide, so we may see some of that here. We may see just instances where there was not enough to prove this. There was not enough to prove that. So, we didn't pursue charges here. We declined. We don't want to see a repeat, certainly the Attorney General does not want to see a repeat of the James Comey situation where he stood up and he went through everything that Hillary Clinton did bad. This attorney general, this department of justice, this FBI does not want to go through it. 

To see the relevant transcript from CNN’s The Situation Room on March 22, click “expand.”

CNN’s The Situation Room
March 22, 2019
5:30 p.m. Eastern

WOLF BLITZER: Based on this letter we have now all read multiple times from the Attorney General, Bill Barr, to these respective chairman and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, can we draw conclusions about the principle focus of what the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation was all about? He was charged nearly two years ago with authorization to investigate any links or coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, in other words so called collusion. Can we draw any conclusions yet? 

JEFFREY TOOBIN: Yeah. We can draw the conclusion that he is going to tell Congress what he found. I mean, you know, it is true as Gloria and others have been pointing out that in the legal papers, in the indictments that Mueller has told a story. But he has told an incomplete story. He has not said whether the Trump campaign was involved with the Russian government or Russian interest. He has not said one way or the other and I think he’s obliged to answer that question. 

SARA MURRAY: And I think — 

GLORIA BORGER: I do too.

TOOBIN: And I think he is going to express some sort of conclusion there. And remember too the whole reason that Mueller was appointed by Rosenstein was the firing of James Comey and he — and — and Mueller has not said whether he believes that the President obstructed justice by firing James Comey and all of the related activities. I think he owes Congress an answer on those questions. 

MURRAY: I think —

BORGER: We might get it. 

TOOBIN: So I do think the principle conclusions is was there any sort of conclusion and was there obstruction of justice? We don't know the answers to that yet. 

MURRAY: And I think as Toobin points out, yes, these indictments, have they have told a story and have been very complete. But there were in addition to this question of whether the President obstructed justice big questions in some of these cases that remain understand unanswered. We know they’ve charged Roger Stone with lying about his attempts to get in touch with Wikileaks. They never said whether they actually believe that Roger Stone was successfully in touch with Wikileaks or got any information from him. They certainly haven't charged him with it. In the Paul Manafort, they suggested he was colluding with the Russians in various courtroom instances. They also said he was sharing polling data with Konstantin Kilimnik. They didn't charge him with any of these things. They didn’t charge him with, you know, conspiracy. They charged him with financial crimes, so they never fully, you know, sort of closed this loop on whether they believe that Paul Manafort, in his role with the Trump campaign, was also colluding with the Russians. They sort of dropped these bread crumbs, but it will be very interesting and I think Congress certainly has every right to demand the answers to those questions. 

SHIMON PROKUPECZ: I don't know that Mueller will even reach those conclusions.

MURRAY: He may not. Mmmhmm.

PROKUPECZ: This is a criminal investigation. His whole point was investigating crimes, whether or not I can bring charges, whether or not I can indict people, whether or not there is more investigative steps that I need to take for criminal reasons. What the President may have done here, who he was communicating with, who Roger Stone was communicating with. That may be a political issue here. That’s not for Robert Mueller to decide or his team or the FBI to decide, so we may see some of that here. We may see just instances where there was not enough to prove this. There was not enough to prove that. So, we didn't pursue charges here. We declined. We don't want to see a repeat, certainly the Attorney General does not want to see a repeat of the James Comey situation where he stood up and he went through everything that Hillary Clinton did bad. This attorney general, this department of justice, this FBI does not want to go through it. 

NB Daily Mueller Report Trump-Russia probe CNN The Situation Room Robert Mueller Wolf Blitzer Jeffrey Toobin Sara Murray Donald Trump Bill Barr
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