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Mark Zuckerberg Speaks Out; Trump's Deployment of Troops to U.S.-Mexico Border Costing Tens of Millions; Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebukes Trump. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 21, 2018 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:02]

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Remember that?

"The Times" is also reporting that McGahn went so far as to have White House lawyers write up this memo warning the president about the consequences of ordering up these investigations, including consequences like possible impeachment.

So, let's start this hour with former FBI Special Agent Asha Rangappa, who is also a CNN legal and national security analyst.

And, Asha, what is the difference between the White House telling his White House counsel, in this case Don McGahn, to do this vs. calling up the DOJ and ordering it?

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, we know that he's approached McGahn on other aspects of, for example, the Russia investigation. So I think that that was his first conduit.

And he, as we know now, had a lot of distance between himself and Sessions. So I think that could explain that. What's extraordinary to me here, Brooke, is that we heard all this rhetoric during the campaign and sometimes even after. What's extraordinary is that he took concrete steps to move towards actually trying to make this a reality, and also that he wanted to go directly to prosecution.

That's not how these cases work. You investigate, you find evidence. If it warrants prosecution, you go there. He just wanted to put them in jail. And I think both of those things should be pretty alarming to everyone.

BALDWIN: He talked about it very publicly, like this time. This was a year ago on the radio.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The saddest thing is that because of the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I'm not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing.

And I'm very frustrated by it. I look at what's happening with the Justice Department. Why aren't they going after Hillary Clinton and with her e-mails and with her -- the dossier?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So what do you make of McGahn's paper trail, the fact that he wrote that memo warning him of consequences such as impeachment? Why did he do that?

RANGAPPA: Well, there's two possible interpretations.

A best interpretation is that maybe the -- he was just giving the president legal advice, and the president followed it. But I think here what McGahn knew is that the president was, like I said, taking concrete steps. And this also leaves a paper trail, because when someone starts to obstruct justice, everybody who is in the wake of that, who assisted it or enabled it can also get ensnared in that web.

So I think here you have somebody trying to lay out a paper trail that they advised the president of the consequences and made it clear that this was not within the bounds of normal investigatory procedure or the law.

BALDWIN: Looking down the line, right, the way this could potentially play out, there could be subpoenas here from Mueller to team Trump.

And the -- Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani, this is what he says about that, telling Axios: "I think he would not win" -- he being Mueller -- "wouldn't win a legal battle if he did that, and I think it would consume months."

My question is, if Mueller does subpoena the president and Giuliani says Trump would refuse to cooperate, what happens then? Gets litigated?

RANGAPPA: It would get litigated. And this gets into our constitutional thicket that eventually would probably get resolved by the Supreme Court.

Now, legal precedent is not in the president's favor. We know from the Nixon case that when it came to documentary evidence that could be probative of a crime, that that was not shielded by executive privilege. But this is testimonial.

So there are a few other issues involved. I think the question here, Brooke, is, if the Supreme Court said, actually, you do have to answer this subpoena, and the president refused, where are we then? And given the president's reluctance to observe legal norms and sometimes even the law itself, I think that that would put us in a -- squarely in the middle of a crisis.

BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

And you mentioned the Supreme Court. I want to ask you about something entirely different, but something that has made headlines just in the last hour or so, that the chief justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, has now criticized President Trump for Trump blasting a judge. He referred to this judge as an Obama judge. This is what Justice Roberts has said: "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."

How rare is it for a chief justice of the Supreme Court to rebuke the president like this?

RANGAPPA: It is extremely rare, Brooke, especially given that the Supreme Court is obviously going to be hearing many cases in which either the administration is a party or potentially, as we just mentioned, with the subpoena, President Trump is a party.

[15:05:03]

And they need to look impartial. So, for the chief justice to speak out, it means that he truly believes, as a matter of principle, that the independence of the judiciary is being, you know, undermined here by the president's constant rhetoric.

And I just think it's ironic that the president continues to designate Obama judges and his judges or whatever, because when it came to, for example, the FISA against Carter Page, which was approved by four different judges appointed by Republicans, he discredited those as well.

So I would just say that we need to stand up and pay attention when the chief justice is making a comment like this.

BALDWIN: Paying attention. That's why we're talking about it.

Asha Rangappa, thank you so much. Good to see you.

RANGAPPA: Thanks.

BALDWIN: The reports of Trump trying to prosecute his rivals come in the wake of the president's failure to bring down -- to bring the Saudi crown prince to justice.

The CIA has assessed that MBS ordered this hit on U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month. And now a number of Republican lawmakers are blasting the president for his statement yesterday standing by the Saudis, where he clearly indicated the economic interests outweigh the moral outrage.

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta has just weighed in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEON PANETTA, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: I think the danger here is that the president may talk about America first, but essentially what he's saying is America is for sale to the highest bidder. We're embracing the values of arms merchants, which is to sell arms to whoever, regardless of what they may or may not do. And that undermines the basic leadership of the United States in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: And often forgotten in this complicated U.S.-Saudi Arabia alliance is what is being referred to as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, the famine in Yemen, the most devastating in 100 years, born by a civil war, where the U.S. and Saudis have backed the government and Iran is backing a group of rebels.

Want to show you some video, but just a warning. It's really, really tough to look at. So get the kids out of the room. This is all part of the story and these are images that need to be seen.

Caught in the middle of this war, tens of thousands of people in Yemen and children who are starving to death. And now a group, Save the Children, has estimated 85,000 children under the age of 5 have died in the last three years, a completely preventable loss of life.

CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon is with me now.

And, Arwa, I just wanted to focus on the children, 85,000. Why isn't more being done to help them?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, it's probably because anyone who could help them, any nation that could help them, i.e., the United States, the Saudis and others that are part of the Saudi-led coalition, that should, theoretically speaking, because they are the stronger force on the ground, want to have an beyond on the moral -- a greater moral high ground, quite simply aren't.

They're unwilling. And when we talk about children dying of starvation under the age of 5, this is an unspeakably painful way to die. Your organs start shutting down very, very slowly. Children are susceptible to a number of diseases, and autoimmune diseases. Often, they're so weak, they're barely able to even cry out.

And their parents are just sitting there watching their children wither away, posing that very same question. How is it that the world can watch what is happening in this country and allow it to continue, and not really do anything about it? We're talking about food in a country that does actually, Brooke, have food in it. It's just not reaching these populations that so desperately need it.

And it's probably part of this broader overall picture that you have been talking about, where there is such a significant lack of morals that is being displayed. You have a moral compass that is incredibly broken.

You have a calculus that is being made that, no matter what the cost, it doesn't really matter when it comes to the lives of these children and other Yemenis that are suffering unspeakable horrors.

BALDWIN: Gosh, their little eyes.

And, Arwa, for all of the Americans watching who perhaps haven't paid as close attention as to what's happening in Yemen -- there's a lot going on -- can you just remind everyone the U.S. role, the U.S. involvement in the war there?

DAMON: Yes, well, the U.S. has effectively been supporting the Saudi- led coalition throughout all of this, and they have been fighting a civil war and a proxy regional war as well against the Houthi-backed rebel factions that are there.

[15:10:15]

Now, the U.S. did stop refueling Saudi aircraft in response to growing pressure, especially following revelations that U.S. bombs were responsible for a number of airstrikes that took place that ended up costing civilian lives.

But the U.S. has really not backed down when it comes to support for the Saudi government. We repeatedly hear President Trump talking about the significance of the American-Saudi relationship, the hundreds of billions of dollars, as he puts it, in business dealings, and that part of his America-first policy is effectively putting that money and the business dealings at the forefront of any sort of outcome that may arise, whether it's the humanitarian tragedy that is what's unfolding in Yemen or whether it is trying to bring about accountability for the brutal murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The U.S. also feels as if, at least under the Trump administration, Saudi Arabia is critical to the strategy that we're expecting to be revealed when it comes to trying to sort out the Palestinian-Israeli crisis and when it comes to his broader strategy in the region.

President Trump firmly believes that he needs Saudi Arabia onside to provide a counterbalance to Iran, but really, Brooke, it boils back down to these weapons deals. And we have heard the president repeatedly say over and over again that if the Saudis back out of its weapons deals with the United States, it would potentially cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars -- while that number is a bit on the high side in potential weapons deals -- then the Chinese and the Russians will step in.

Well, the Saudis have been buying weapons from Western nations for quite some time now. They wouldn't just be able to flip a coin and start buying from the Russians and the Chinese. But that's really all it seems to be boiling down to, money, and not any sort of humanitarian side to it or any sort of morality whatsoever -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Arwa Damon, thank you. Thank you.

Coming up next: the price tag on how much taxpayer money it'll cost to keep thousands of troops on the U.S.-Mexico border over this Thanksgiving holiday and into next month.

Plus, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on the defensive in this exclusive interview with CNN -- what he said when asked if any of the company's top leaders need to go.

And, later, a tragic death in Cleveland, where a former judge who'd already served time in jail for abusing his ex-wife is now the suspect in her murder -- what we're hearing from an Ohio congresswoman who once vouched for him.

You're watching CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:17:15]

BALDWIN: We now know how much it will cost U.S. taxpayers to send thousands of troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, $72 million.

A Pentagon spokesperson says that that will pay for the president's operation to deploy nearly 6,000 service members through at least December 15. The president is also expected to grant those troops more authority during the operation.

And while thousands of these men and women will miss holidays with their families, a sacrifice I know so many have made before them and continue to do so, some veterans and military officials are arguing that the migrant caravan does not at all warrant a deployment.

But the president says, Thanksgiving, no big deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Don't worry about the Thanksgiving. These are tough people. They know what they're doing and they're great. And they have done a great job.

You're so worried about the Thanksgiving holiday for them. They are so proud to be representing our country on the border where, if you look at what's happening, Mexico, the people from Tijuana are saying, wow, these are tough people. They're fighting us.

They're in fistfights all over the place. These are tough people that are coming in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: With me now, Rear Admiral John Kirby, CNN, military and diplomatic analyst and former Pentagon press secretary for the Obama administration.

Admiral, first, just your reaction to the president there?

JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST: Well, I think, if I was his press secretary, I might have advised him to put that expression a little bit differently than the way that he did. It came across as callous and insensitive.

He's not wrong. The troops are tough and their families are very resilient. This is not I'm sure the first holiday or Thanksgiving that they're going to spend apart from one another. But that doesn't make it easy. It doesn't make it fun. And even if it is deployed in the United States, they are still deployed.

And I think I would have advised the president to be just a little bit more understanding of that.

BALDWIN: And now also just on the numbers, it's 5,900 troops. It's that price tag of $72 million. I know you and I have talked about previous deployments under Bush and Obama and the dollars spent there as well.

But can you just compare that to those missions? Or give us some perspective on that cost.

KIRBY: Yes, so talking to some folks at the Pentagon, I think this is roughly comparative to sort -- to other missions in the past in terms of borders.

I mean comparative per soldier. I mean, the number of soldiers here, 5,900, that's a lot. So that's more than in the case of President Obama that he sent down there, but, comparatively, it's about right.

It's also much less expensive than keeping troops overseas deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria, obviously, all the logistics and support infrastructure costs that go into that much higher than what we would do here at home.

As you pointed out, though, Brooke, this is just an initial estimate, takes us to about December 15. Secretary Mattis just today was very direct with the Pentagon press corps in saying, look, don't hold me to this number. It's going to go north of that. The longer we stay, it's going to go higher.

[15:20:03]

And I think we need to be prepared for that.

BALDWIN: You mentioned Secretary Mattis. He made news on something else, because the president also has been criticized for not going to a war zone, because of what he did or didn't do with Arlington over Veterans Day or in France.

Why isn't he going overseas and meeting with our men and women in the military? He addressed that very briefly yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Are you afraid to go to a war zone?

TRUMP: No, I'm going to a war zone, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So, "I'm going to a war zone."

General Mattis just speaking a second ago, Secretary Mattis, saying that the president decides where he needs to go. But Mattis says for the security both of the president and the troops, he doesn't want Trump in certain locations.

And I get it. I want you to assess that. But so many presidents have gone to so many different war zones. So...

KIRBY: Right. Yes. Yes.

So, look, I mean, there is a real security concern here, not just for the principal, the president, but also for the troops that he's going to be visiting, because as they gather in big groups, they could become vulnerable to targeting as well by the enemy. So you always have to factor that in.

That said, it's not like presidents haven't done this before in very difficult circumstances. President Bush and President Obama went to both war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, very difficult times. It can be done and it should be done and it can be done safely.

And I do hope that the president is in fact going to visit some time soon, because he really needs to. Look, whether you like him or not, whether you voted for him or not, whether the troops support him or not politically, he is their commander in chief.

And it's a tremendous symbolic show of support and an expression of gratitude on behalf of all American citizens for the commander in chief to spend time with his troops in the field.

BALDWIN: I'm sure so many of them would love to have him.

KIRBY: Absolutely, they would.

BALDWIN: Admiral Kirby, thank you very much.

KIRBY: You bet.

BALDWIN: Coming up next: A former judge in Cleveland who'd already served time for abusing his ex-wife is now the suspect in her murder. But what's really stunning about this case is how many high-profile people have actually vouched for him after his first conviction, including a sitting congresswoman -- what she is saying now, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:26:53]

BALDWIN: A defiant Mark Zuckerberg defending his leadership of Facebook in this exclusive interview here on CNN.

And he's pushing back on a "New York Times" investigation that suggests Facebook tried to cover up evidence of Russian election meddling on its platform.

Here is CNN's Laurie Segall with her one-on-one interview with Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURIE SEGALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I want to start with some of the revelations that came from "The New York Times" piece.

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, FACEBOOK: Sure.

SEGALL: Let's look at Russia.

Did you and other leaders try to minimize Russia's role in spreading propaganda on the platform?

ZUCKERBERG: No. Look, here's what happened.

In 2016, there's no doubt that we missed something really important, right? The Russian effort to try to have these coordinated information operations on Facebook and also the Internet and more broadly was not something that we were expecting. Elections are always a very high security event. And we were expecting certain kinds of cyber-attacks.

And we found them, right? The Russians were trying to hack into specific accounts. And we told the people and we told the FBI and all that. But we weren't on top of these coordinating information operations.

So we've spent a lot of the last couple of years now basically building up our systems and strengthening them to be able to address this.

But we've been very focused on this and have invested a lot in it. And anyone who wants to say that upon learning about this we haven't been very focused on trying to both address it and also that we have -- I think anyone who says that we haven't made a lot of progress, I just think that that's not right.

SEGALL: I think the folks talk about transparency, though. You know, this idea that the former chief security officer wanted to publish a transparency paper and every mention of Russia was taken out. He was encouraged not to put Russia in that transparency paper.

Do you regret not being more transparent at the time or not getting -- you know, not being more vocal about it at the time?

ZUCKERBERG: You know, I wish that we understood the issue sooner, right? I wish we understood it before 2016, before the Russians tried to do these information operations in the first place.

I do think sometimes people say, well, how did you not know this? And, you know, I think in some of these cases, you know, it is a really big deal to come out and say that a nation state is behind something. And before our company puts a stamp on something saying that, I want to be really sure that that's the case.

SEGALL: Quite a few revelations in this piece.

One reference, the decision to keep up a Trump post that many considered fell under the hate speech category. And part of this revelation said that one of the reasons your team decided to keep it up because they were worried about a conservative backlash.

I know Facebook is under a lot of pressure from the Democrats and the Republicans and government in general. Are leaders making content decisions based on appeasing political leaders?

ZUCKERBERG: No. Look, in a lot of these cases...

SEGALL: But did they in that situation?

ZUCKERBERG: No, they didn't.

And I was involved in those conversations. And I think it's very important that people have the opportunity to hear from what political leaders are saying.

So, you know, in those cases, I don't think that a lot of the content violated our policies.