What we won't see in the Mueller report and what constitutes obstruction of justice

On "The Investigation" podcast, ABC News' Investigative team breaks down everything you need to know about the upcoming release of the Mueller report with color-coded redactions.
32:02 | 04/16/19

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Transcript for What we won't see in the Mueller report and what constitutes obstruction of justice
I. And do. And. Who. Welcome to the investigation I'm Chris plus two senior executive producer of investigations here at ABC news. And I'm joined by my colleagues Johnson teaching and Matt mosque both of them have been covering Donald Trump since he began running for president. John was on the trail with him and now covers some of the White House and Matt. Was one of the first investigative reporters back during the election. Who came to me and brought Russia. And what is this business deals that Donald Trump and even back samurai was a little skeptical but not kept pushing and he turned out to be right this is a big week for the Muller investigation on Thursday they are going to finally release the 400 page document that bill Barr has been going through a lot of it's going to be rejected. But it's can be color coded. On why things are redacted I think John you said that I think even in the bureau they were testing out. How long it takes to copy what we brought an extra counting machines or could do color but six minutes and fourteen seconds is what we're looking at apparently machines slow down like 370 pages Chris so that there may have little problem there but he we're we're fighting right now who gets the first copies but don't worry boss you get one of the first five. Not what it what are you looking for the most. What do you think where I mean everyone says we're in skip over collusion and just go to the obstruction case what do you think what are you going to be looking. Well so it we understand it's two sections collusion and obstruction and in the collusion section where I think. There'll be interest is in all of the different contacts between the trump campaign. And trim campaign aides and Russian agents and Russian officials we know just from what's in the public record that there war. A multitude. Of attempts to. Create this. Contact between Donald Trump and Vladimir prudent. There are I think half a dozen people who proposed the two of the meeting during the campaign. Now it never happened and we don't know what details we'll see your Nazi but. I think to the extent there's more information out that that will be very interest and. But today we also have a special guest with us and it's John Carlin John Carl. Is the chief White House correspondent who's also the co host of the powerhouse politics podcast this is a big week for the Moeller investigation. Jon Karl over the weekend you made some news on this week. When you focused on Don began in the White House and would he have possibly said Tim Robert Mueller let's listen of that. What worries them most. Is what. Don McGinn told the special counsel that was former White House counsel former White House counsel Don mcinnis visibility on all this it was reported earlier that he spent thirty. Hours before the special counsel. George I'm told to significantly more than thirty hours and here's the astounding thing. After all that time before the special counsel nobody on the president's legal team. Debriefed McGann about what he was asked by the special counsel or what he told the special counsel so the bottom line is they really don't know. Pacer John is is done again becoming the John Dean in this is this where you're laudable there's no indication of that but but the point of the significance of again. I mean implication of if I'm becoming a dean would be as if you were to turn on the present a seed no indication of that whatsoever. But he was White House counsel. Saying he was witness to virtually everything. Over the course of this saga. He you know was to warn that the president talked to about firing smaller decisions and obviously never actually was made. But something the president clearly considered and clearly talked about. He was the Warren. Who. Broke the news to the present in the it. Jeff Sessions had recused himself off from the Russian investigation and for the wrath of the president after that decision. He was the worn. That was involved in in in. Preparing to how the White House what would talk about the Komi firing so McKim. Is a central player here and has a witness two has been witness to. That that the president's whims on this the president's actions the president is musings and you know he spent a lot of time talking about it but isn't the issue here to that the White House is kind of flying blind -- again that they didn't debrief him after he met with. Small world this time isn't that the real issue here yet and we which is it astounding casino there's a joint defense agreement Dave Dave Dave don't have enough thing. Wrong with doing that and that would have been standard practice and any other normal situation like this and it's simply didn't happen and by the way armed told and I think. Johnson Tucci is is as talked to folks on this and well. That this is true of all of the senior White House staff I mean. He spoke to began against the war and that is potentially the most dangerous again not because he's gonna turn and talk about a cancer on the presidency but because he's gonna answer honestly what he saw. Armed. I and he saw the most but OPEC's who was by the president's side. You know probably. More than just about anybody in that White House until she left she testified. For holidays and extending to as he matter of time at some of these people wins as you report experiences are over thirty hours but we know. Ryan's friends significantly hope picks went for two days the coroner announced key Steve banning the list goes on and on an argument and really tier point oh John it's. The thirty somewhat people that were inside the White House but they had joint defense agreements with many people outside of the White House that were close to the president and those people were not debriefed or. Disgust with what they were asked and what the told them. And then weren't really tough to look for any follow through your point on the Sunday show we George about the fact that may Guillen went back several times. Dose of periods my understanding is that even if tree left the White House has contacted for follow up. Yes but at the end of the day doesn't it suggest that the president had nothing to hide he could have asserted executive privilege on dom again. And in the end and said no you're not testifying about our conversations here and there could have been a drawn out battle but he didn't do that right. Well other the president also very much getting ready for the release of this report you see some preemptive strikes. On the argument about obstruction of justice. On the president's actually meant. And beginning to make this argument long time which was that he was fighting back this was. An investigation that was started. But people have to get him he was fighting back he wasn't obstructing justice he was just fighting back. But you know you're right at the end of the day I think what we're gonna see is we're gonna see chapter and verse. Some actions by the president. They'd would. Be in any normal circumstance pretty alarming. Request you know world raising questions about. His respect. For the independence of of the Department of Justice. For the to judicial for the printed for the whole process here on bought. When all is said and dawn. More completed his investigation. Mueller was able to interview all those people inside the White House the White House turned over more than a million documents without a fight. And the president never fired him it was allowed to go to completion the one thing if they didn't do as they never agreed to an in person interview but. Basically aside from that anchored everything else date date they cooperatives but this investigation that's a pretty powerful counterargument to me when your accused of some of obstruction of justice. I mean I think one of the big questions here Jon is. So much of what happened happened in full public view whether it was obstruction or not we all side. Is there going to be more in this report that the president did that we didn't see. Actions he took that nobody until they read this we'll know about what do you think we'll. Horror in his now famous four page letter or not summarizing but providing principal findings. He. Suggested that there were stuff we didn't know and that he was asked about it during his turns testimony on capitol only any and he said explicitly. That there are did did their are things here that we do not. No harm you think the way Hassell try and put some of that into public view ahead of the report I see no indication. Of that happening on they also haven't tried to prevent it from from being released are you were told as of now. And by the weighted there's a phrase. That I hear often want to talk to people. Insight into what the president the White House doing people over their people close advisors to the president people who owned. You don't carry out the president's wishes and directives. Unless it changes you but but but but as of this moment and we're pretty damn late. There's been no effort whatsoever. To to redact any thing because of executive. Privilege and I can establish something he could make a very strong argument for doing right but I think I think what my understanding adjourned and you know I've talked about this none for a microphone five. There's noon we've had is that. It's not going to be so much debt were gonna learn. Something new scenario why she's gonna learn more examples of it's like we know that he talked about firing Jeff Sessions we know that he talked about. Firing Robert Mueller we know about examples 12 in three. But it's possible we can learn of examples for five and six and or. Right not going to be some brand your smoking gun on this but. You know what one thing that I expect to see Bieber talk so much about the the firing of Khomeni and the U. Musings and talk of firing Muller who didn't happen. But I think the hours around at the refusal of the sessions refusal. I I expect to be reading in May be learning a little. That's has the answer is because he's one of the things you mentioned there is about who going met Don Meehan for hot second you talked about how you know he's not looking to turn on the president but. One of the things we've now learned that Don mcinnis that he was infamous for his memos as sort of these I would call them the CYA not yeah right so he goes into these interactions with the president and others he comes out he writes debriefing notes and we already know he's written one around the firing efforts of Mahler he's written about sessions he's even done them on security clearance is related to Jared Kushner and Yvonne could trump I mean. Do we thinking of from your sources they're they're meaning a little more here. Do we think we're actually gonna see some of those memos in this report can be learned more about what McGinn who's observing. In easements the testimonies one thing and actually he's wrong notes when he came and of these encounters. I don't have a definitive answer on them but I know this is something that fits. People close the president concerned about it gets too. Again the documents that were turned over when Ty Cobb was running. You know point on this in the White House Counsel's Office and his philosophy on the investigation when dealing with the investigation was. Full cooperation. Will cause the investigation to end sooner. The president has nothing to hide we fully cooperate we get this cloud lift and move on. Well a lot of the people currently advising the president on this I think that this was a colossal mistake. And and you know it and an end and one of the concerns is that. You know what you're taught him or is this is my memos from again I would say it are the top of the list of things or to accept into the documents. Except I always say above one mystery that I really want answered Thursday is Mike for an. Cooperated made to deal. With smaller so when you make a deal you have to give something to get something. We still don't know what he told them he had to tell them something that seems like my Clinton's visibility and. All of this is much more about communication with Russia a strategy regards to Russia and sanctions things along those lines that may be. Are separate from the obstruction peace and more akin to that collusion peace and we know from the summary here we believe from the summary that. Those. Details didn't lead to anything substandard. Soon they gave me deal even though didn't Paramount apparel I don't know I'm not I think you raise a great question and I'd I'd I'd I'd love and on the answered by the way are on the collusion and here's the problem for the White House just from a political stand point but this is the good news is all out. The good news is all out there that that the top line to conclusion that the central focus of the investigation. Did. Cooperate conspire with the Russians on the haxor on the yes social media campaign X that are on the answer to that is now. But. There's going to be a lot written about that in this report I think what you're going to see is chapter and verse. Heck of a lot of contact between people that gin in it in the trumbull Orbitz is really where the next fight is coming right because these are the names that are likely. Many of them to be reached Baghdad. And the Democrats aren't gonna stand by Italy and allow that ranked s.'s. By for smoltz can raise all kinds of questions and some people never believed the ultimate finding it fit that there wasn't a conspiracy here. But I think another thing that it will be argued and perhaps forcefully. And does that with all of this smoke. This was an investigation that cantonal had to happen so the idea that this was some illegal investigation started because people wanted to get you know act you know dad Donald Trump. Deterrence policy ex Eric Sandra. You know what we're gonna see a lot of suspicious activity that did Mahler tracked down and and ultimately concluded did not add up to 22 actual collusion arm on the Russian interference in. Alyssa summit the president for a second because obviously we've seen the tweets for the last nearly two years now which aren't hoax and they don't fake investigation he was asked just last couple days in the Oval Office about his thoughts similar report if he was worried about let's take a listen of that. Are he's not yeah. Now I can say anything about anything because frankly there was no collusion and there was no obstruction. And we never did anything wrong the people that did something wrong with the other side. The dirty cops and a lot of problems that would cause it's a disgrace what happened and again it should never happen. To a president again and you just lucky I happen to be the president because. A lot of other presidents would have reacted much differently than I reacted you're very lucky I was the president and his scam. PureAV. Russian hoaxes like Colin so no I'm not concerned at all. The fire on the result there is no collision no obstruction of and that's the way it is and I know a lot of people were very disappointed but they know the real answer you know when the Democrats go. Behind the scenes and they go into a room backstage and they said they talked they left. Because they know absolutely gamble beat Hoch hopes. So for John moving it to where the president's gonna have to deal with this down to Matt's point I mean. You are now going to see whatever comes out of this release on Thursday. Democrats on Capitol Hill are gonna seize on whatever is not good for him and they've already said they wanna see the full un redacted report and to supporting material so he so they want those million plus document Wright who won the white do they want everything they they want them to summaries of the interviews they want any transcripts they want and all they want the grand jury information to be released by. You know through court order they want they want at all. So how do the start that fight and how does the White House prepare for that because they've got a very GB. Team over the White House White House counsel only been their for a little that he is staffed up pats have blown. Com but they don't have the news gave boss he has said to us couple weeks enormous podcast. Said they don't really have the infrastructure yet to deal with the full capital hill investigation. Yeah I don't mean it can't can be a time to take a step back and talk about what far as content he's been he's been vilified in this process he's been roundly criticized. By by Democrats and and and the president's critics. But I don't think we I think it's important did. Think about what bar is actually doing here and true it's under intense political pressure everything else. But there is no. Requirement to any of this be made public. And in fact there's no real precedent critically harm wrong guys are no real precedent. For an investigation. Like this from special counseling and we're not talking modern independent counsel is not can star. For investigation like this to two to release this material. So arm and and and the fact that there is no reduction on privilege grounds. And the fact. They when he talks about third parties he has explicitly said he is not talking about the present so he's not gonna block out material that is disparaging the president now. Look if you read some of the stuff to rot Rosen Stein has has has said about this over over the last couple of years. Mom so those third parties would basically include anybody is not. There's not prosecutor to drop prosecutor we don't disparage you that's why Rosen time when that call me so hard to how he handled the Hillary Clinton gays. So bars are leaning really form forward here and in ways that are gonna bite the White House I mean what were ways that are gonna that are gonna. What not look so good for the president so so I don't know I think we have to kind of see how this plays out and see how aggressive the that the Democrats are actually going to be. In infighting are they gonna you know I mean look there are people are never going to be satisfied that anything besides fallen total release but. You know we're gonna Brooke couldn't see the reductions we're gonna see the reasons for the reductions. And I think we'll get a pretty quick sense about whether or not there were really anything that was done here to protect the president. John thanks for joining us coming up ABC news legal analyst Dan Abrams joins a conversation. Stay with us. Welcome back to the investigation on Chris Klesko and I'm here with Johnson Tucci. And Matt Moscow where the lead investigative reporters on the Muller investigation here at ABC news. We are now joined by our legal analyst Dan Abrams who depend can break down legal arguments better than anyone I know it dance so the mullah report is coming out on Thursday. And in it we know there are going to be reductions color coded reductions in four different areas. Didn't you think the Democrats have a case in trying to get that unruh death. Did. Look at first lowering have to see how much is redacted I think while as a legal matter. That isn't the question percent right which is exactly. What was redacted I think that the the argument because this is gonna end up being a clause I political argument. Becomes weaker or stronger depending on the extent of the route actions if the if the rejections are truly. You know. Sort of overwhelming. And it really fuels like you'd don't get a sense of major portions of the report. I you know I think that that that bars going to have to figure out. Away he's even said it's right that he's willing to think about ways to work with congress if there were to actions are are much more minor. It's going to be it's going to be a tougher argument. And so do I think that they'll get the entire report un redacted no. Do I think that they'll be able to I think we will leave the the mullah report with a fair. Sense at some point of all of the the major findings in reasoning behind it yes. But isn't the law on bar side isn't the law and listen we don't find out grand jury information we don't. One of disparage people unfairly. Isn't and aren't these all reasonable argument to disparage unfairly argument is actually one I think it's not particularly strong. I don't think that that's a significant argument. Hum why because this is different. Because this is not just a typical federal prosecution of it. You can't just take the DOJ guidelines and say it applies to special council because if he did that there's no reason to have a special counsel. Because they then you're been basically the attorney general's making all the decisions anyway. And the attorney general is just gonna apply the same standards as senate there's a reason you get a special counsel and it's because you feel you needed independent person to come in. And examine. A set of facts at satirist so. This idea that oh you know at a third party look easy if the if it's my point is the third party can't be president trump. That's Michael. Is that that it can't be that beat it if the reasoning I'm confident the one of the reasons that Mueller will have given for not making a decision. On obstruction of justice is going to be that a sitting president can't be indicted. It can't be banned all so if that's the case. That you can't even effectively talk about the person you were investigating. Because there's concern about a third party concerns now. Grand juries a different issue. Yet there are consider ways to get around grand jury. I'm more concerned about classified informants right back to me is a very it's the two strongest arguments to me. Are classified information and information about ongoing investigations. Those two are stronger to me in the other two. We've seen reporting already Dan that. The Mueller team prepared summaries of those sections that were intended to be made public should we expect to see those in fall. I I would certainly hope so I mean I would think that that was the reason that they did it. I mean look at this this is where we get into this balance between what is the attorney general's role vs what was Robert Mueller rule yes. According to special counsel regulations it is really up to the attorney general. As to whether to make it public how much to make public at setter. You know there's that I think that's that's pretty clear and and that definitely puts it on on his side as a sort of technical legal matter. But I think he'd have some some real explaining to do if he can't explain. Why a he can't release this summer meeting if the summaries are released because it's possible that they. That they say bad things about third peak third parties that were not quote unquote indicted. I think that's a real problem. So so I think that we will I think bar would be very Smart. To release these summaries that Muller's team created in their entirety. Because then he can really credibly say. Book. I worked with dollars material. I took his summaries. Their public. You eat you know what mode not why finding two don't know Muller's findings are so. That's a very strong argument for bar to make and then say when he gets into the details of some of that some of the new show how they reached those various conclusions. Some of that material would be were to act. This weekend on this week Jon Karl made some headlines thing that gunman Ganz testimony. May be -- rather significant here in the findings are we're gonna see especially when it comes to obstruction of justice you know and the firing of Kong media and fix our truck. He also made an argument about saying you know the president could. Claimed executive privilege. And and there could have been a battle you know Tom again could have been forced not to testify right how incriminating couldn't be. I think your your right that again our definition of in criminal if it has come such a long way. In this administration and I just mean that you know in a previous administration you know we would say good news for president. Had tried to even considered firing the special counsel. We've been hard fought. In this one if he didn't specifically. Order it. The answer is gonna be well then what's the big deal. So. I don't think based on everything we know already that there's going to be a need juror. Of revelation from against testimony. That is going to be I'm a mega bomb shell. On the issue of obstruction I do think they're going to be some some nuggets in there which we don't know about. On the and I think that's clear even if you read through between the lines in bars letter march short many of the the alleged obstructing. Oh a lead alleged obstructions were Republican and of course farce point is that he doesn't. Think that there struck you know I have my own little obsession with Michael Flynn. And and I've I've said to myself what did he have to give to get a deal he spent seventeen hours with them you know could there be. A conversation. Maybe this is kind of a conversation that could happen that. You know Donald Trump said to Mike Flynn don't worry I'm going theoretical only or this investigations gonna go away. You know on its face that's could be obstruction right. But again you know the had this this is the ultimate question right is that obstruction I don't know it depends some people say the president. I can effectively do would every once when it comes to. Hiring firing ending beginning. And as a result none of it would matter but yes I think it. If if that's what he was saying or doing that that would be. That would be obstructionists look look at I think your right to be focusing on Flynn by the way. This is going to be. You know because Moehler didn't quote on quote make a typical prosecutorial. Judgment here and Bard did. And Moeller says it doesn't exonerated. You know you really you do get a sort of a sense of the broad lanes here and the lanes are going to be there's gonna be sent to add stuff. For trumpet here it's going to be immaterial. Which suggests that he obstructed the investigation. And if it'd been anybody else it probably would have been criminal. I mean I feel confident saying that it just it past the B. And it has to be that Mueller decided that he wasn't going to make a final conclusion in part because the president can't be indict. Over the and that's the question and answer I mean if that's their rational he ended the day. Even some mean it when Donald Trump leaves office he could be facing charges in theory. But I don't think this going to be an appetite. For. I mean look here's it a more interesting question me is after he leaves office could be prosecuted on the campaign finance filed writes in the SD NY yes helium that Timmy is more possible. Then the idea that you're gonna get into these broad constitutional questions about obstruction of justice in the power of the president etc. And if those are. Sort of more tougher macro calls. That is the more micro. Legal question. Of the campaign finance when you look at the cone plea agreement and the you know the supporting material. It's clear. That the prosecutors. Believe Michael Coen. The trump ordered him to do well and yet. And the other part of that born to dance that when we finally saw. The search warrants that were released the only part of that there was still overdue act did was related to the campaign finance violations and our individual one. But the union of those trees for for your take on is either we're. You seem Mahler close up shop. But you salute individuals that Muller media deals with that have still not been sentenced Michael Flynn is still out there rate gates is still out there. Does it surprise you. To see that as Bob Mueller is closing up shop his report seeming of these were winding down staffing in his office in this suddenly not going to be showing up there anymore. That the individuals that. He found helpful and others found helpful are still kind of in limbo here. Absolutely I mean what would they cooperating about. Rip rip right what what was the deal for why why do we have to delay Michaels Clinton's. So does seem. We now move into the political realm right because defining high crimes and misdemeanors is something that is up to the congress. I don't think it's a realistic. Impeachable offense in this environment meaning. I think they're going to be people who could make a very compelling argument that in any other administration we would say that this could be. Impeachment I think it is fair to say that in this administration there is no way. That that in and of itself will be deemed to be impeachable. Coming full circle I mean does that give house Democrats to sector of the chairman chairman Nadler justification to see. The un redacted report to see that ancillary material. In order to make his own determination about impeachment. It shouldn't if you view it from a sort of you know the three the three C a 30000 foot view we it should in the sense that. If this special counsel with everyone was sort of in agreement going into this that the special counsel can't indict a sitting president. And he was investigating. A sitting president. Then it must be. Sort of as a practical matter that. The investigation. Gets turned over to congress. And yet as a technical legal matter it's not that simple. And it really does. It seems again as as I read the special counsel regulations. Resting in bars hands more there's nothing. As a legal matter that says the special counsel's report is for congress. And and that's something by the way that I think that they should changes when they got into this. Business of trying to avoid another independent counsel and making a special counsel more accountable. To the attorney general and here's the question that because bar so it's not enough. To prosecute. Here and he didn't even use the presidential standard grade he said he said in completely apart from the question of whether a president but what does that mean coming from him right. Meaning if he's saying you can't be indicted. Then he's basically just saying look he's basically echoing his memo that he sent before he became attorney general in effect saying that a president. Almost can't obstruct justice that that it's really almost no way he's allowed to fire him to remain for you want to do anything he wants that that's the power of the executive the reasoning doesn't matter etc. and so we basically echoed that what's surprising to me is that rob rose and Stein. Joined in that come legal assessment again not a factual. Question percent. But we can't wait to see what's gonna happen Thursday and we're mean we may need to back on our podcast you have to well I'm happy to do thank you see guys that's it for us today please be sure Dickens described him leave us a ratings thanks to our producers Trevor Hastings in Caitlin Ballmer and as we countdown of the release of the Muller reports set for this Thursday watch out for a special bonus episodes to drop as soon as we have the special counsel's Orton and thanks for listening and we'll be back later this week for a special episode of the investigation. Oh. Do.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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