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Interview with Senator Mazie Hirono; House Vote Underway on $1.3 Trillion Spending Bill; Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired March 22, 2018 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[10:32:48] JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we do have some breaking news. There is something very interesting and a little bit unexpected going on in the House of Representatives right now on Capitol Hill.

What you're seeing live on your screen is a vote on the rule for the massive spending bill, the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that Congress wants to pass in the next few days. Congressional leaders want to pass. But CNN has just learned that this vote right here, which determines whether it can even get off the ground, that Republicans, enough Republicans might oppose this that the rule will not even pass.

Right now what you're seeing is Republicans only voting yea, not nay. But we are told there is enough conservative opposition within the Republican caucus that could put this bill now in jeopardy. They've reached out to Democrats, asking for Democratic help, to pass the rule. So far the Democrats said no way. We're not helping you if you don't add DACA protections.

So this will play out over the next several minutes. You can see that where it says there is one minute and 31 seconds left in the vote. They'll keep this vote open as long as they need to get the votes that they think they can get. But right now it's not at all clear whether this will pass. We will come back when we have a final vote here. This was unexpected. So stay on this.

In the meantime, joining me is the Democratic senator from the state of Hawaii, Mazie Hirono.

Senator, thank you very much for being with us. I know you'll be interested in what's going on in the House of Representatives right now.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: Definitely.

BERMAN: Because you may get a chance to vote on this spending bill. This is a bill that doesn't include any protections for Dreamers or DACA recipients, it doesn't include these health care subsidies that Susan Collins was promised frankly back in December. Will you be a yes vote if this comes to you?

HIRONO: I'm really disappointed that DACA or this protection for 1.8 million Dreamers is not in here, although what you're reporting right now says that maybe there is a chance. I'm still reviewing this 2,000-page bill that we just got last night. And it points out how dysfunctional a process that we're utilizing to make sure that government runs. And, of course, I'm not for shutting down government. But coming up with a 2,000-page bill that we're expected to vote on in the Senate, and, first of all, has to come out of the House, is a nutty way to proceed.

[10:35:02] So I'm hopeful that the Joint Select Committee on Budget and Appropriations on which I sit will perhaps be able to come up with a process that will stick so that we can have a budgeting and appropriation process that doesn't lead to brinksmanship, finger- pointing and dysfunction.

BERMAN: I can see by your --

HIRONO: Hope springs eternal.

BERMAN: I can see by your grin you think that maybe all of a sudden the Democrats may have some new leverage here. We will keep our eye on that vote in the House.

HIRONO: Yes.

BERMAN: In the meantime, we just did hear also from House Judiciary Committee members. You say the Senate Judiciary Committee. They say they are concerned that when Congress goes on the Easter recess that it could be a chance for the president to take some kind of action against the special counsel's investigation, maybe Jeff Sessions, maybe Rod Rosenstein.

Do you feel a similar concern?

HIRONO: We -- there are a number of us who have had ongoing concerns about what the president intends to do regarding Russia investigation. We've already seen him trying to stymie it. But, yes, this is -- there is serious concern about Robert Mueller being fired, and while we're not in session to do anything about it.

This is why I think it is really important for us to continue to call attention to the vulnerability of Robert Mueller and how important it is for his investigation to continue. And that we should pass legislation before we go on our recess that will protect him and his investigation from stopping.

BERMAN: Senator, I don't know if you had a chance to hear the interview that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did exclusively with CNN's Laurie Segall. He says he would be happy to come testify before Congress if, if he's the right person at Facebook to answer the specific questions. Is that a sufficient answer? Shouldn't the answer just be, yes, I should come and appear before Congress?

HIRONO: Yes, I would like for him to say yes because after all this was taking responsibility. He is at the top of the decision-making at Facebook and he certainly should come and testify before us, and I hope that he comes willingly, otherwise I hope that a subpoena will be issued because Facebook and the other -- the concerns that people have, millions of users on Facebook expect a certain level of privacy. And so the idea that information that is collected and sold and used in nefarious ways by entities such as what happened in the 2016 election, you know, we need to shine some light on what is going on with this huge, huge platform.

BERMAN: Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, thank you so much for being with us.

HIRONO: Thank you.

BERMAN: We promise to tell you as soon as we get the results of this vote in the House because it could change your life.

HIRONO: We'll be watching.

BERMAN: Let's go back to the House right now. The House Intelligence ranking committee member Adam Schiff is answering questions or making a statement about what his committee is doing.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), RANKING MEMBER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: -- first to conduct the meeting in open session so that you would have the opportunity to review the transcripts of our meeting and the debate that took place around the report. That request was rejected. We had a series of motions that we wished to offer including holding Steve Bannon in contempt, something which was made necessary by Steve Bannon's refusal to answer broad categories of questions. Indeed his only commitment was to answer 25 or 24 questions that were helpfully written out for him by the White House.

That's no way to conduct an investigation. So we have motions to hold Mr. Bannon in contempt as well as about a dozen motions to require subpoenas for those who refuse to answer questions either because they have made claims over illusory privilege or simply made no claim, but refused to answer our questions nonetheless.

We also moved to issue subpoenas for a wide set of documents. We will continue to press the majority to make the votes on those issues public as well as the discussion, the debate that occurred around them. Suffice it to say, though, that the majority was not interested in conducting any further investigation. Even when the flaws in what we have done so far have been -- become so apparent over the course of the last week.

But our work will go on nonetheless. We will be submitting minority views. We will also be conducting additional interviews and obtaining additional documents and indeed that work has never stopped. We're very pleased that witnesses have decided to continue to cooperate with our committee even if the majority will not be participating.

But a rather sad chapter in our committee's long history with the ending of the majority's participation, the investigation, that ending, taking place in secret session, for no reason at all, except a desire to avoid the public scrutiny of this decision to curtail an investigation into one of the most serious intrusions into our democracy in our history. [10:40:10] I'm happy to answer a couple of questions and then I'm

going to have to run up to vote.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Did the committee vote to increase the Republican (INAUDIBLE) to declassify the Republican report today?

SCHIFF: I will let the majority discuss with you what they decided to do. All I can tell you is that all of the majority motions were rejected.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Republicans held out the offer to Democrats to edit --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIFF: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Excuse me. All of the minority motions were rejected.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Republicans held out the opportunity to Democrats to edit, revise, contribute to their report. Was that considered? And if not, why?

SCHIFF: We had approached the majority well before the issuance of this report to urge them to work with us on a joint report. It was really no interest on their part in doing so. And when it became clear even on things where there should have been overwhelming agreement such as the Intelligence Community's conclusion that Russia sought to sow discord to harm Clinton and help Donald Trump, the majority made it clear that they were going to take issue even with those fundamental conclusions, at least as it pertains to Donald Trump.

It was clear that their report was going to be completely political from beginning to end and there really wasn't much to work on in a joint fashion. The other problem that we had since the drafting of their report 10 days ago or their provision of it to us, it has been a moving target. They have altered key findings in their report even within the last week. It shows the fundamental --

BERMAN: All right. You've been listening to House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff, this Democrat, the lead Democrat on that committee. What we believe just happened is that the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to release their report, their report which says they found no collusion in their Russia investigation, that report which also seems to say that they don't believe the Russians favored Donald Trump.

Republicans on the committee, we think, voted to make that report public and won't happen anytime soon. This effectively ends, once and for all, the House Intelligence Committee investigation and the ranking Democrat on the committee doesn't like that one bit.

We'll have much more on that in just a moment. And then, just moments ago, the House also holding votes on the big

spending bill. We'll be right back.

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[10:46:29] BERMAN: All right. Happening now on Capitol Hill, live pictures on the first votes for this huge $1.3 trillion spending bill. And CNN has been getting word over the last several minutes that there could be some problems here. This could be in jeopardy.

Joining me now live from Capitol Hill, our Sunlen Serfaty with the very latest -- Sunlen.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. As always in these sort of negotiations (INAUDIBLE) last minute hiccups have the real potential to potentially derail the whole process. As of now, my colleague Deirdre Walsh reporting that there is some concern about this procedure in the House, that they're voting on at this moment that would push the spending bill forward and the House, some concern whether they do have the votes.

That said, we'll see as they vote in the next few moments. But leaders up here on Capitol Hill, again, they have this bill, they believe they have the president's support, and it's now just a question of how quickly that they are able to move this through the process where the timing is incredibly tight.

First of all, what's included in this massive over 2,000 page $1.3 trillion spending deal, you have money for the Defense Department, infrastructure, the opioid crisis, the "Fix NICS" bill, that's the improvement of the existing background check bill, certainly, though, not the sweeping gun control measures that many Democrats wanted. Then you have money for border security, money for border fencing, although not the full funding for the so-called border wall that the president wanted.

There is a lot left on the cutting room floor in this bill, too. Not a deal for DACA protections for so-called Dreamers and also not a bill for the health care market stabilization bill that was aimed at lowering premiums that some Republicans like Susan Collins wanted. So certainly a lot in, a lot out and certainly a lot of drama up here on Capitol Hill as they actually move to votes today and tomorrow and certainly a big question not only in the House, some concerns popping up this morning.

But some concerns over here in the Senate if Senator Rand Paul will stand in the way of this going forward procedurally -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Sunlen Serfaty, we were counting votes there, I got to say there are already 20 Republican no votes. They're very close to being able to not pass this rule without Democratic support. We will keep our -- that's a tough number for Republicans. We may be coming back to this very shortly.

Sunlen, thank you very, very much. Loyola-Chicago getting ready for a tough game tonight. But they have

a 98-year-old secret weapon. Coy Wire introduces us to the media darling of March Madness, Sister Jean.

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[10:53:24] BERMAN: Men's college basketball Sweet 16 tips off tonight. One of the biggest stars of March Madness, not even a player. Coy Wire just spoke with an inspiring 98-year-old fan.

Hey, Coy.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. The greatness of March Madness is made even greater when there is a Cinderella team that advances in stunning fashion. Well, this year, that team is 11th seed Loyola-Chicago. And this Cinderella has a fairy godmother.

Meet 98-year-old Sister Jean. For nearly a quarter of a century, she's been the team's chaplain and the Ramblers' biggest fan. And as a former basketball player and coach herself, Sister Jean knows ball. She still gives the players a scouting report and before every game she leads them in prayer.

I asked her, what are you going to tell the team tonight before the game?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SISTER JEAN DOLORES SCHMIDT, LOYOLA-CHICAGO'S TEAM CHAPLAIN: Gracious God, help us through this game, we really need your help tonight. I already sat down with Nevada. And I've been talking a little bit about that team to God, just in case God, you know, needs a little more information and needs to help our team.

When the end of the game comes and the buzzer rings out loudly, we want to be sure that board says we get -- the Loyola Ramblers get the big W.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: And she's so sweet. And she's a really big deal, John. It was like -- I would imagine you interviewing Tom Brady. I was a bit nervous and I had to tell Sister Jean that I was. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: I've interviewed Olympic gold medalists, stars in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NASCAR. But I've never been more nervous than I am right now.

SCHMIDT: Don't be nervous with me.

WIRE: You're a celebrity.

[10:55:01] SCHMIDT: I know.

(LAUGHTER) SCHMIDT: That's what they tell me. You probably know, I corrected the reporter the other day, she said, you're national. I said, no, we're international.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: Loyola-Chicago taking on seven seed comeback kids in Nevada. That's tonight. Part of a quadruple header, I should say, in the Sweet 16, John.

BERMAN: I love that Sister Jean giving God the scouting report on the team's playing tonight.

Coy Wire, thank you very, very much. The Almighty is into Sabermetrics.

All right. We are watching the House very close to figure out if this huge spending bill has a future.

Stay with CNN for the latest.

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