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Ivanka Trump Used Personal E-mail for Government Business; Judge Blocks White House from Denying Asylum Claims; Interview with Rep. Jim Himes (D), Connecticut. Aired 10-10:30a ET
Aired November 20, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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[10:00:16] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was a huge surprise. It was the best thing ever. I did not expect it at all. It was crazy.
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JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Wow. That was quite a moment. Hard to hold back the tear in your eye. You know.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. Beautiful things still happen in this world.
All right, it is the top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.
SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. Here we're watching three major stories converging on the White House this hour. A presidential, quote-unquote, "proclamation" aimed at blocking asylum bids from Central American migrants itself has been blocked in federal court. Appeals are likely. The Supreme Court may even get the final word.
The president is heading to Mar-a-Lago this afternoon, but not before receiving the CIA report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Already, the Saudi government is declaring that the crown prince and his father, the king, untouchable no matter what's in the report.
HARLOW: And this morning, a source close to Ivanka Trump tells us, quote, "There was no intent to avoid government servers." That's when the first daughter used her private e-mail account for White House business. We just learned minutes ago House Democrats, they'll say they will continue to investigate this regardless.
So let's begin at the White House this morning where the first family is dealing with, you know, irony here, to say the least. Sarah Westwood joins us.
Sarah, a lot of important things are happening today. And we're going to get to Jamal Khashoggi in just a moment because the president will get the CIA report on that. On this front, how is the White House responding? I mean, will the president consider Ivanka Trump's use of private e-mail for a period of time akin to what Hillary Clinton did or are they saying this is vastly different? SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, the
White House is not commenting. They're leaving that to Ivanka Trump's legal team to come out and try to explain this. But as you've mentioned, there are obviously a lot of parallels being drawn between what Ivanka Trump did during the first year that she spent in this White House and what Hillary Clinton did at the state department.
Now her attorneys are working to distinguish the two situations, according to a statement from a spokesperson for her legal team, Peter Mirijanian. He wrote in part, "Miss Trump did not create a private server in her house or office. No classified information was ever included. The account was never transferred or housed at Trump Organization, and no e-mails were ever deleted."
Of course, questions do still remain about what type of information was shared on those private accounts and whether all of those e-mails were captured, according to Records Preservation Laws.
Now two former colleagues of Ivanka's here in this White House, Marc Short and Anthony Scaramucci, told CNN this morning that they do see an element of hypocrisy in Ivanka's use of a private e-mail address given that her father rode into the White House on a message that was excoriating Hillary Clinton for the exact same practice. Take a listen.
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MARC SHORT, FORMER DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS, TRUMP WHITE HOUSE: It's hypocritical and certainly it looks bad. And I'm sure that the media will have a field day with it today.
ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Well, certainly, I think it's hypocritical. I think even Ivanka if she was, you know, interviewed about it, she'd have to say that it was a mistake. You can't do that in that position.
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WESTWOOD: Now with the Democrats preparing to retake the House, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee soon to be controlled by a Democrat is saying they'll continue to look into this, as Ivanka's team is continuing to say that the first daughter and senior administration official was not aware of all of the requirements surrounding e-mails when she first joined this administration -- Poppy and Jim.
SCIUTTO: Interesting. Those are explanations you heard from Hillary Clinton early on as well.
HARLOW: Yes. And you know, to the point of -- you know, if you're explaining you're losing, it will be interesting to see what she officially says about this and if she does take a page and learn from Hillary Clinton's sort of mess in terms of trying to answer the question.
SCIUTTO: Or if Hill investigations turn out that there was classified information shared on there.
HARLOW: Right. Right.
SCIUTTO: These are all still open questions.
Sarah Westwood, thanks very much.
Let's bring in CNN's Ariane de Vogue, she is now coming us -- giving us the latest on the judicial loss for the White House overnight.
I mean, a couple of questions, Ariane, here. How big a setback and should we now expect an appeal directly to the Supreme Court?
ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Right, well, this all stems from that proclamation on November 9th where the president said that individuals who are trying to ask for asylum can only do so at official points of entry. That was immediately challenged by the ACLU and others who said, look, these people are seeking asylum. They can do it either at a point of entry or anywhere on the southern border.
And the judge last night agreed with them. He said at certain points the administration's argument strained credulity. He issued a temporary restraining order and he said whatever the scope of the president's authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden.
[10:05:08] So this is a loss for the Trump administration. We just now got a statement from a spokesperson at the Department of Justice who said, "Our asylum system is broken and it is being abused by tens of thousands of meritless claims."
Jim and Poppy, you remember this all came up in the run-up to the midterms as the president complained about people coming over as being dangerous. But their supporters say on the other hand, these aren't dangerous people. These are people applying for asylum. It's not easy. They have to prove that they were persecuted but that they have a right to make that claim.
So now what we're going to see, we're still at the very early stages here. This is just a temporary restraining order, but it will be interesting to see if the administration tries to skip over the appeals courts here and go just to the Supreme Court with Brett Kavanaugh, who is now cemented that conservative majority.
HARLOW: That's a very interesting point. Well, that's your beat so you'll be there. And you'll let us know.
Ariane, thank you.
There's a lot to unfold obviously on all these fronts this morning. With us now, Alice Stewart, CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, also in Washington Paul Begala, CNN political commentator and Democratic strategist.
So good morning to you both. Alice, let me ask you about, you know, the judicial smackdown, if you
will, that the White House got from this federal judge who said basically you can't rule by fiat here. Right? There is broad authority for the president when it comes to immigration, but you have things like the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act or the 1980 Refugee Act that allow for different rules basically for people seeking asylum in this country than other undocumented immigrants.
If you were in the White House, how would you respond?
ALICE STEWART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would respond by pointing out a key component of that Immigration Nationality Act that you just mentioned, Poppy, specifically, 212-F, which specifically states that if the president at any time deems a class of aliens coming into the country as detrimental to the interests of this country, he can by proclamation suspend the entry of them into this country. So they do have the law on their side. And it's not a surprise that we have some justices that took exception to certain legal components.
HARLOW: Wait, can I just say, Alice?
STEWART: But if you look at the letter of the law they do have it on their side.
HARLOW: Hold on one second. You think they have the letter of the law on their side, but the president has said out loud, he doesn't even know who's in the caravan. At times he said it's criminals, et cetera, but he's also said I don't even know who's in there. So wouldn't you have to know who was in the caravan to proclaim that there is this imminent danger to the country, Alice?
STEWART: DHS officials have come out and they have calls with reporters yesterday, specifically saying that they did have concerns about some of the people in the caravan. And it's not all women and children. There are a lot of people that the DHS officials have deemed as criminals and are coming here for unlawful purposes. So DHS has identified people that could be harmful to our country. So there is valid legal language that gives this president and the administration a right for appeal on this decision.
SCIUTTO: Fact check there, the president claimed unknown Middle Easterners implying that there were terrorists in there. DHS has not been able to back up that claim, though the president has repeated it.
Paul Begala, on the politics of this, oftentimes with these pushes here, the administration might even know it's going to lose in court, but makes a judgment that -- and again, that's not guaranteed here because if it goes to the Supreme Court, maybe he gets the judgment he wants, but oftentimes it knows it may lose in court, but politically makes a judgment that this is to the president's advantage. Do you see that to some extent here?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think that's perhaps the motive. The president seemed to want to frighten us about the caravan right before the election. I have to say, if so, it failed. In the exit polling, you know, not only did Democrats have an enormous wave. Their best midterm election in 44 years, the number one issue by far
in that election was health care. The president tried to hype up fear about immigration. It just didn't work. Despite deploying troops to the border, despite deploying fear of -- the problem is, and politics is my field and I love it.
But when you then use your powers as president and the legal system to advance your political gains the way he's, I think, using our troops to advance his political gains on the border, that's the problem. This is what he did with the Muslim ban. Now that was the first few weeks in office, and so maybe cut him some slack. But he has this problem. You know, it's like the old Texas gunfighter. First you clear the holster, then you pull the trigger.
This guy has shot more legal holes in his foot for no good reason just because he seem to want to respect the law in his pursuit of politics. It's a huge mistake for him. Overall, it erodes the authority of the president.
HARLOW: Alice, to Ivanka Trump's e-mails. If you are advising her and you want to avoid the disaster that was the sort of Hillary Clinton expanding, evolving explanation of e-mails, what do you tell her this morning on how to answer this? Because she'll be interviewed and she'll asked. So what do you do?
[10:10:03] STEWART: First advice would have been before the inauguration is to encourage all members of the staff to not use their personal e-mails. But that being said, where we are today, I think the best answer is to just come clean and acknowledge, hey, I made a mistake. It was inadvertent. I wasn't aware. And it's been corrected and rectified and moving forward.
But I think comparing this actually to what we saw with Hillary Clinton is not completely accurate simply because Hillary Clinton was secretary of State. She had a private e-mail server. She was sending classified information and she deleted 33,000 e-mails. So there's not a direct correlation here, but it does create a problem for this administration right now, and my suggestion always is acknowledge where the mistake was made and vow to make sure that you make the proper corrections that it won't happen again.
SCIUTTO: Well, Paul, do we know the answer to those questions? Because Hillary Clinton of course said early on, I did not share classified information via e-mail and --
BEGALA: And she did not.
SCIUTTO: Well, it turned out that there were some e-mails in there, at least as identified by the intelligence community.
BEGALA: Post facto, but after it was already shared you can't -- that's not fair.
SCIUTTO: I know. I know.
(CROSSTALK) BEGALA: No, she was wholly innocent. I have a bone to pick with our media here. This was the most covered story of 2016. The most. The most. And so now, the most important issue in --
SCIUTTO: That's not the question I asked you. I'm asking you about a separate issue here, which is Ivanka Trump. I'm asking you if Alice's defense of Ivanka Trump in your view, saying that there's a clear distinction between what she's done with her e-mail and Hillary Clinton, I'm asking you if that is a fair distinction.
BEGALA: There's a distinction in that the hypocrisy of Miss Trump, she's either criminally stupid or criminally arrogant, maybe both, I don't know. The difference is, if anybody was on notice not to use private e-mail, it was someone in the Trump White House, particularly someone named Trump. Good Lord. I mean, how stupid can you be or how arrogant can you be?
And this weasel statement that her private lawyer spokesman put out, that ain't going to listen. They should listen to Alice and just say I made a mistake. I'm terribly sorry.
BEGALA: It's largely a bogus issue about Hillary. My guess is it may be a pretty bogus issue about Miss Trump, but the issue really is arrogance and stupidity and hypocrisy and that is not bogus. That's spectacularly evident.
SCIUTTO: Well, it's a fair point. A lot of those questions could have been removed by Hillary Clinton if the early answers were clear about the e-mail use. Sorry, I didn't mean to cut you off, Alice.
STEWART: No, that's OK. This is, you know, unfortunately an unforced error on the part of the administration which could have easily been avoided, but given the fact that this was such a huge issue, and in my view, a very valid issue and talking point for President Trump against Hillary Clinton, the concerns over her e-mails, given that it was such a high-profile issue, I viewed it as very imperative that the administration made sure that they didn't fall into the same trap and do some of the same activity.
HARLOW: You know --
STEWART: But that being said, moving forward, address the issue and make corrections and move on.
HARLOW: You know, transparency is really valuable, right? And so, you know, the reporting that we have this morning, my source close to Ivanka Trump said every single e-mail, everything has been preserved on White House servers. So what if, we're talking about hundreds of e-mails here. That's at least the latest reporting. They just put them all out there to the public.
SCIUTTO: Right. HARLOW: If they're scheduling e-mails, et cetera, maybe they will be
released to the public. That would answer a lot of questions, right?
SCIUTTO: Yes. And financial records at the same time.
HARLOW: There you go.
HARLOW: Thanks, guys.
SCIUTTO: Alice Stewart, Paul Begala, thanks very much.
Still to come, today may be the day we get more answers in the horrendous murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The CIA expected to brief the president on the Saudis' role, including the role of senior Saudi officials, the crown prince among them, in this killing. Will President Trump listen and take action?
HARLOW: Plus, first wildfires, now rain could bring flash flooding and mudslides in California. We will update you on this.
And a CNN investigation uncovers more than 200, quote, "mishaps" involving federal air marshals and their guns. Did their actions jeopardize public safety?
[10:18:27] SCIUTTO: Today, a full CIA report is expected on the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The pressure growing on President Trump to hear that report and take action. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman, Bob Corker, Republican, of course, warned in a statement to CNN that Congress will act if the White House does not sanction specifically the Saudi crown prince.
Let's discuss now with Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut. He is on the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, thanks for taking the time this morning.
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Good morning, Jim.
SCIUTTO: First of all, Congressman, we have seen this president publicly reject the findings of the intelligence community on Russian interference in the election, on North Korean nuclear activity despite ongoing nuclear talks. Are you concerned that the president will reject what appears to be a substantial CIA report finding the crown prince directly responsible for Khashoggi's murder?
HIMES: Yes, of course I am. I mean, as you point out, facts unearthed by the intelligence community that are inconvenient to the president's conception of himself get dismissed. And I'll tell you, there's a whole other set of things that happens when people who work hard in places like the CIA and the NSA have their work dismissed by their boss, that creates a real problem for the United States. But look, it's clear that this president is enthrall to the Saudi
royal house and the crown prince in particular, as he is with dictators all over the world, whether it's the president of the Philippines or Putin. He's quick to criticize every other human on the planet, other than those fairly murderous dictators that he bizarrely seems to find an awful lot of sympathy for.
[10:20:04] SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, so you've heard and seen Senator Bob Corker in the other chamber, his commitment here to push for actions to specifically punish the crown prince. Democrats now have control of the House. Have you had conversations with your GOP colleagues about a bipartisan effort in the House and in the Senate to hold the president accountable here, in effect, to push him to action against Saudi Arabia and the crown prince?
HIMES: Yes, and of course, Jim, you've seen this movie before with respect to Russia, where when the president was waffling on whether there should be sanctions on Russia, the Congress actually unified and stepped up and forced the president to impose sanctions.
I think you're going to see a similar effort with respect to Saudi Arabia. You know, and it's not just related to this awful, awful killing of Khashoggi. One of the things that has come out of this whole episode of course has been to open a whole lot of (INAUDIBLE) in Yemen, where hundreds of thousands of very desperate and poor people are dead with U.S. complicity, with the U.S. taxpayer dollar being used to assist the Saudis and prosecuting a brutal, brutal war.
And by the way, prosecuting it very badly, with the targeting of innocent people, with military incompetence on an epic scale. So yes, there is on both sides of the aisle in the Congress a desire to really demonstrate our concern with the crown prince, not just on Khashoggi, but on a number of other things he has, I think, unwisely done around the world.
SCIUTTO: CNN reporting the discovered U.S. weapons being used in some of those strikes on civilians there in Yemen.
I want to ask you about the situation for Nancy Pelosi because the math here is difficult for the punitive speaker of the House, and we're going to throw this up on screen because you had 16 Democrats sign pledges in the midterms not to vote for her. Fifteen of whom now have won their seats. Her margin, she can only lose 15 Democrats, as you can see there. From where you're sitting is Nancy Pelosi in danger, does she not have the votes to be the speaker of the House?
HIMES: Well, to be clear, Jim, she has the vast majority of the Democratic caucus on her side. And that of course --
SCIUTTO: But not enough. But not enough.
SCIUTTO: Not enough of a margin of safety there. HIMES: Well, to get the nomination, she's easily got that, but then
there's the question of what happens on the floor, which is your question. And look, I know a lot of the people who are making a stand here, and I don't think they're going to be subject to persuasion. What I do hope, and I think this is the important thing, Jim.
They're running a play, and their play is if we can deny Nancy Pelosi the votes on the floor and maybe do that a couple of times so that there's gridlock and uncertainty about where we go, maybe at that point, a white knight or what have you, emerges. Somebody else.
That's a real gamble. And I think that's partly why they're having trouble getting momentum because nobody has emerged. So I guess my hope, Jim, this is the important thing. If they run that play, and it looks like they're going to run that play, they need to agree for the purpose of Democratic unity, that if they run the play and the play fails, that they stand down.
Look, they've got the right to do what they're doing on the floor, and some as you point out new members have promised their constituents that they will do that. What we can't have this do is extend into a protracted period of disunity and argument. Let them run their play, if the play fails, they need to stand down and let Nancy Pelosi be speaker of the House.
SCIUTTO: Let me ask you about the president's new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker. The Democratic minority leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer, he has sent a letter to the DOJ requesting a probe into potentially unlawful communication between the president and Matthew Whitaker regarding the Russia probe.
I'll remind you, historians will remind us that one of the Articles of Impeachment against President Nixon was for communication with Justice Department officials involved in an investigation into himself. In your view, if those communications are discovered and substantiated, would that be an impeachable offense?
HIMES: Impeachable of the president, you mean?
SCIUTTO: Impeachable offense by the president for -- if it's established that he communicated with the acting attorney general about an ongoing investigation?
HIMES: Yes, look. Obviously, that really depends on the facts. And you know, I don't want to join the gang in speculating about impeachment. You know, we have deliberately tried in the spirit of, you know, trying to repair deep splits in the Congress to not go every time the president, you know, is accused of doing something wrong, which of course, is on a daily basis, to not go to impeachment.
What we can say, Jim, is look. Whitaker would not have been on anybody's top 30 list of candidates for attorney general, so why is he acting attorney general? To me, the answer seems pretty clear, which is this is a guy who said he didn't like the Russia investigation, who apparently supported the president, and so there's going to be a lawsuit to determine if he needs to be Senate confirmed. [10:25:05] The investigation you're talking could happen to see if the
president deliberately trying to obstruct that investigation. But if nothing else, it's very clear that the acting attorney general should recuse himself, because there's no way he can oversee an investigation that he disparaged with the kind of impartiality that all Americans would expect of the Department of Justice.
SCIUTTO: Congressman Jim Himes, thanks very much.
HIMES: Thanks, Jim.
HARLOW: All right, so next we're going to take you to Northern California where, yes, rain is in the forecast, but it could actually bring more danger than relief to the firefighters battling these flames.