As part of a six-person, unanimously anti-Trump panel on CNN’s The Situation Room Thursday, CNN National Security Analyst and Obama administration alum Samantha Vinograd proclaimed that the Mueller report “is a gift to the government of Russia.” Later in the evening, during a back-and-forth with former Bush administration official Scott Jennings, Vinograd refused to acknowledge that the Obama administration effectively dropped the ball on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
After other members of the panel debated whether or not Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the Mueller report was “misleading,” host Wolf Blitzer asked Vinograd to address the topic that the Special Counsel was appointed to investigate in the first place: Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In addition to describing the report as a “gift to the government of Russia,” Vinograd proclaimed “this is a very proud moment for Vladimir Putin for several reasons” before predicting that “he will weaponize this report to continue to sow divisions, spread confusion, and undermine the credibility of our institutions.” Hasn’t the media already done just that, at least when it comes to sowing division?
Vinograd also claimed that the report will enable President Trump to collude with Russia in 2020: “We have every reason to assume that President Trump views this document as a green light to continue doing what he was doing on the campaign. He’s claiming that because there are no...further criminal indictments against him or members of his team, he didn’t do anything wrong. So we should expect him to continue this behavior going forward in the 2020 campaign cycle.”
CNN coverage of the Mueller report continued well into the evening. During the 12:00 AM ET hour Friday, Jennings pointed out that “we knew...pretty extensively what the Russians were doing by mid-2016 but the U.S. government and the previous administration chose not to do anything about it. So Donald Trump wasn’t the President then. Barack Obama was.”
Vinograd strongly pushed back on Jennings’s analysis, jumping in and indicating her desire to “correct the record” on something. Jennings asked her if she wanted to “correct the record on who the President was between 2014 and 2016.”
At this point, Vinograd accused Jennings of being “confrontational” before justifying the previous administration’s response by describing “the amount of information that we currently have available about Russia's attack on our country” as “apples and oranges when we look at what the previous...administration under Barack Obama knew in 2016.” She also argued that “President Trump and his intelligence community and his National Security Council have years more of evidence of what Russia’s doing and they have failed to deter that attack.” Considering the fact that the attack occurred in 2016 and the Trump administration was not in power then, it makes absolutely no sense for Vinograd to complain about President Trump failing to deter an attack that took place before his presidency even began.
As for Jennings, he elaborates on his position in an op-ed entitled “Mueller’s report looks bad for Obama.” Vinograd and others with Trump derangement syndrome might want to read it.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Thursday’s edition of The Situation Room is below. Click “expand” to read more.
The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer
WOLF BLITZER: Let’s get back to our, our panel and Bianna, let me get your reaction to what we just heard from these two Democratic lawmakers.
BIANNA GOLODRYGA: Well, I think what a lot of people’s reaction has been is to Barr’s behavior and to whether or not you can characterize his assessment from the get-go last month when he received Mueller’s report as misleading. And one of the reasons being compare that four-page memo that he issued just two days after receiving the report to what we heard from Mueller today. And that is this specific line. “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.” That was put in there intentionally and for a reason, and there does seem to be at least the appearance that the Attorney General cherry-picked his words in those four pages and even what we heard from him, testimony before Congress and this morning.
BLITZER: You know, Phil Mudd, what…what do you want to see when…if, if you had a chance, from some of the redacted material on national security or intelligence?
PHIL MUDD: I mean, as an intelligence professional, I was actually surprised at how much material showed up in the public domain today. I think the conversation I’d like to see is not the redacted material or the intelligence. It’s the conversations at the Department of Justice about…between former Director Mueller, Special Counsel Mueller and the leadership of the Department of Justice, in particular Rod Rosenstein and Bill Barr, about the decision not to move forward on obstruction of justice. I thought some of the information on Russia was more interesting than I anticipated. I think it’s been underreported today. But the obstruction stuff, including the legal conversation about what was appropriate to charge a President with, was really interesting. And we don’t get a flavor from the report about a) why Mueller chose specifically not to move forward there, in particular, would he have moved forward if this hadn’t been the President of the United States and what the flavor was of his conversation with the Department of Justice leadership.
MUDD: I look forward to that, Wolf, when he does testimony.
BLITZER: He clearly accepted the standing, longstanding Justice Department guidance…
BLITZER: …that a sitting President of the United States cannot be indicted. One of the reasons presumably why he decided, Jeffrey Toobin, not to recommend charges.
JEFFREY TOOBIN: And one reason why Barr’s two statements were so misleading is when you read the reasoning of Mueller for why he expressed his obstruction of justice position the way he did, he said that he honored and would follow the policy that there was no…that you can’t prosecute a sitting President. So he said if I were to recommend a prosecution, the President would have no forum to defend himself against those charges. The charges would just sit out there. So he was simply going to lay out the evidence. That’s very different…
DANA BASH: Very.
TOOBIN: …from any sort of exoneration. In fact, it’s closer to an incriminating statement than an exoneration. And Barr completely misled the public about that.
BASH: Can I just follow up on that because I have that part right here?
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD: And Wolf, if I may…
BLITZER: Hold on one second, Sam.
BASH: Sorry. I have that part right here because he very, very explicitly says what Jeffrey is alluding to; that it’s because of the legal standards that they are unable to reach the judgment that he should be prosecuted for, for obstruction of justice. But as I mentioned before, it says the conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office accords with our Constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law. Explicitly says, this is for you, Congress.
BLITZER: Congress, you carry the ball right now. Samantha Vinograd, let’s not forget what the name of this 400-page report was. A Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. And if you read the first few pages, the bottom line conclusion of the Mueller team, quote, “the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” That’s in contrast to so much…so many times we’ve heard a very different assertion by the President of the United States.
VINOGRAD: That’s true, Wolf. And it’s also true that there is no exoneration for President Trump from a counterintelligence perspective. I read this document. I’m a pretty careful reader. I don’t see anywhere in those pages, any indication that the counterintelligence investigation that was launched into President Trump has concluded. We have not seen that in writing in this report, and potentially members of Congress will ask Bob Mueller about that if he testifies. But let’s be clear. This report is a gift to the government of Russia. This is a very proud moment for Vladimir Putin for several reasons. First, we know that he likes to use controversial and inflammatory issues as a weapon. He will weaponize this report to continue to sow divisions, spread confusion and undermine the credibility of our institution. That’s reason number one. Reason number two is we have every reason to assume that President Trump views this document as a green light to continue doing what he was doing on the campaign. He’s claiming that because there are no criminal indict…further criminal indictments against him or members of his team, he didn’t do anything wrong. So we should expect him to continue this behavior going forward in the 2020 campaign cycle. And finally, Wolf, as Phil mentioned, this report lays out in excruciating detail a multipronged, sustained and systematic attack against the United States using all kind of tools. President Trump was just one of them. So from an intelligence operations standpoint, Vladimir Putin launched a very successful operation that is still ongoing.
GOLODRYGA: And you get more specifics from the President in particular. Remember, he never wanted to accept publicly that the Russians were involved, that the Russians were attacking the United States in our voting system, even though not only his own intelligence community but also those around him, his closest advisers all admitted to him when he asked “do you think that the Russians did this,” and he said yes and he was only willing to go as far publicly as to say we will acknowledge that we want to prevent Russia from doing this in the future, for future elections, but they had nothing to do with my victory.
BLITZER: And one of the Russian goals was to sow division…
BLITZER: …discord in, here in the United States. Mission accomplished…
BLITZER: …on the part of the Russians.
A transcript of the relevant portion of The Mueller Report: Special Coverage is below. Click “expand” to read more.
The Mueller Report: Special Coverage
SCOTT JENNINGS: Yeah. I was struck by fact that this goes all the way back to 2014 and that we knew, you know, pretty extensively what the Russians were doing by mid-2016 but the U.S. government and the previous administration chose not to do anything about it. So Donald Trump wasn’t the President then. Barack Obama was. I think as we move forward, I know there’s going to be a lot of analysis of the obstruction issue and we’ve talked about that all day long. To me…
POPPY HARLOW: Hey, Scott, just one second…
JENNINGS: as an American voter, what I want to know…
HARLOW: …Sam is shaking her head here.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD: I just have to correct the record on something. We should look back…
JENNINGS: With Barack Obama…Are you going to correct the record on who the President was between 2014 and 2016?
VINOGRAD: Scott, I don’t, I don’t know why you’re being, I don’t know why, I don’t know why you’re being confrontational with me, Scott. We’re here to have a discussion, not for you to attack me.
JENNINGS: You’re the one who, you’re the one who interrupted me.
HARLOW: I actually brought her in. I brought her in and you’ll have plenty of time. Go ahead, Sam.
VINOGRAD: I think it’s important to distinguish two things. The first is that the amount of information that we currently have available about Russia’s attack on our country is apples and oranges when we look at what the previous admin…administration under Barack Obama knew in 2016 when it implemented sanctions against the Russians and when it publicized Russia’s attack on our country. As I said, it is entirely possible that there was a massive intelligence failure that resulted in the fact that it took that long to see what they were up to. President Trump and his intelligence community and his National Security Council have years more of evidence of what Russia’s doing and they have failed to deter that attack.
HARLOW: Scott, go ahead.
JENNINGS: Here’s what I think. As an American voter, I want to know how the previous administration failed and how to stop them in the future. We’re having another presidential election coming up in 2020. And I know there’s going to be a lot of legal analysis on the obstruction piece and we’ve talked about that all day. But what’s the most important thing for the average voter out there is, well, if the Russians were able to do this all these years…
JENNINGS: …can we actually stop them in the future?
HARLOW: So, Scott, I’m just jumping in…
JENNINGS: So when Mueller comes in to testify, I think, I think they need to, I think they need to spend most of the hearing on saying, look, we’re really grateful that you delivered this road map on the Russian interference…
JENNINGS: …can you help us come up with this…
HARLOW: All right.
JENNINGS: …prescription to stop it in the future?