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Attorney General Nominee Questioned Before Senate; Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Expected to Enter 2020 Presidential Race; British Lawmakers Reject Brexit Deal. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired January 15, 2019 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: And so, Shimon, to you first on this.
Does that mean that Mueller comes back -- obviously, he's going to have classified findings. As you pointed out earlier, other tangential investigations would continue, so they need to redact some of it. How much will the American people be able to see?
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It's a big question right now.
I mean, we don't -- we have no idea, honestly. I think -- do think that they're going to try to put out as much as they possibly can.
BALDWIN: They being the A.G., if he's confirmed.
PROKUPECZ: Yes, I do think, because of the attention that this case has gotten.
And they need to be transparent. There needs to be a level of transparency, given the amount of money that's been spent on this, the attention that's been on this. And also people need to know, I would think, that the president is not implicated or is implicated in some of this activity.
That's going to be what's important in all of this, just for our government, I would think. And I think the Department of Justice understands that and I think Mueller understand some of that. He's a quiet guy. We don't hear much from him, until something's filed.
BALDWIN: It's a good thing if you're Robert Mueller and his team.
PROKUPECZ: But they are going to have this issue, because they do not want to do what Comey has been attacked for doing, and that is essentially releasing information on someone that wasn't charged with a crime, derogatory information, information that some argue hurt her.
So they don't want to get in that position. There is this longstanding policy at the Department of Justice. You don't talk about people who haven't been convicted of crimes. You don't talk about people who are under investigation -- who are under investigation or who were under investigation.
And there's going to be a lot of information there that they may not want to release yet and they may never want to release. And the other thing is really Russia. We need a full understanding, I think, of what Russia did here. And the only people that know this right now is really the Mueller people.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He kind of shot down Rudy Giuliani, though, during -- at one point, Giuliani has said that he would need to correct the report. And he was asked, I believe by Senator Leahy, what about that? And he just flat out said that won't happen. Not happening. No, Rudy Giuliani is not correcting any...
PROKUPECZ: This never happens.
BORGER: Never, never happens.
BORGER: But I think what Giuliani was saying was, OK, we want to read it and be able to object to things that we think are wrong.
BORGER: And then the question is, what happens then? Do they then get to -- the president's attorneys write a rebuttal? I don't...
BORGER: Yes, they're writing their own report, right. But they want to look at what Mueller has done, I guess.
How much of Mueller do they get to see?
BALDWIN: Great question. Good one, Gloria.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: That's a very important point.
I think one of the things that today's testimony has illustrated is the complexity of the issue about Mueller's report, that it is not simply a just a matter of thumbs up, release it, thumbs down, not release it. There are a lot of conflicting values, some of them civil liberties, don't insult people who are not being criminal charged, vs. public's disclosure of a matter of enormous public importance.
This is going to be complicated. And Barr has not committed himself in any specific way, says, I would like to be transparent. We would all like a lot of things. But that is not necessarily consistent with the other values he's talking about, protecting classified information, executive privilege, rights of the innocent.
So all of that is going to come into play.
BALDWIN: And I heard you guys earlier, and I think it's worth re- upping the conversation of wiggle room in some of his answers too, right?
It is my intent to do X.
LAURA JARRETT, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, within the confines of the regulations.
BALDWIN: Exactly. What did I say? As long as it's consistent with laws and regulations.
JARRETT: I mean, as any good lawyer, right, he's trying to give himself the maximum latitude...
BALDWIN: Of protection.
JARRETT: ... to protect himself, and because he doesn't know exactly what he's walking into, right?
JARRETT: I think he admitted, when he wrote his memo, his 19-page missive, on obstruction of justice, he didn't any nonpublic information that he says. He didn't know anything more than we do, at least according to Barr.
And he has to get debriefed on all of this. It's going to take a while.
BORGER: Isn't it that interesting that Mueller, I am sure, has read the 19-page memo.
JARRETT: For sure.
BORGER: And that he is friends with Barr. We know that. And that now Barr is going to be his boss, at least for a little while.
So we don't know what's going on inside the confines of the Mueller vault, but if you're the Mueller people and you're reading what Barr said, it'd be interesting to see, if they're talking about obstruction, whether they go there or they go somewhere else.
JARRETT: Remember what the deputy attorney general said a few weeks ago, and I feel like it got passed over the last time we saw him publicly, when he did a press conference, Rod Rosenstein, he said Barr didn't have all the facts.
(CROSSTALK) JARRETT: And he said actually...
BALDWIN: Barr is basically acknowledging that today.
PROKUPECZ: No one has all the facts.
JARRETT: No one has all the facts.
But the fact that he -- the fact that he said that I think is an interesting...
BORGER: That would be a walk-back, won't it, if he has to sort of walk back on this 19-page memo and say, oops, never mind.
BALDWIN: And, by the way, on the 19-page memo that was controversial that he had written, and I was watching you all, and it's sort of a matter of was he this pundit who obviously doesn't have all the facts and was opining?
But he was also opining to some very key people at the White House. And what does that mean? And I'm just -- I can't -- and no one has the answer. But what's President Trump thinking? This is a guy who is saying, you know, it's unimaginable that I would do -- what did he say?
Unimaginable that Mueller would do anything to justify a firing, we're good friends, I will not be bullied. It's not a witch-hunt.
TOOBIN: I am prepared to be wrong, as I have been many, many times.
BALDWIN: I like that caveat.
TOOBIN: This is a very impressive performance, I think, and someone who appears not to be a political tool, not to be someone who has a pro-Trump agenda going in.
I think, if I'm Donald Trump, I'm thinking, I'm not sure I -- this was the right guy for the job. By the same token, if I'm the Democrats, I'm thinking, well, maybe this guy won't be so bad. Now...
BORGER: But he has very strong views. He said he had very strong views on the wall. And when Kamala Harris was sort of saying, well, when was the last time you kind of visited a wall? Maybe that was three decades ago. Or are you aware that most of the drugs don't come through the southern border?
He said he was aware. But I do think that in terms of the president's big issue, the wall, he's on his side.
TOOBIN: Yes. I agree. I was really talking about the Mueller issue, that he seemed to be approaching them from an attitude of integrity, openness, fairness.
BORGER: I agree.
TOOBIN: And that's not what Trump wants. Trump wants a guy on his side. That's why he was so mad at Jeff Sessions for so long.
He may have a similar problem.
BORGER: Maybe that is who Matt Whitaker was, is, right?
BALDWIN: Let me hit pause on this conversation, because we have to go to London, where history really is being made.
Our other massive breaking news, this humiliating, catastrophic defeat for the prime minister there, Theresa May, and her deal to have the U.K. exit the E.U., otherwise known as Brexit. Moments ago, members of Parliament there overwhelmingly rejected the prime minister's Brexit plan by a vote of 432 202.
It is the biggest loss in British Parliament now since 1924.
So with me now from London's, CNN's chief international anchor, Christiane Amanpour.
And, Christiane, she lost, and she lost badly.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you said it all, Brooke. She absolutely did.
And this was a scale of defeat that doubled the prediction of even the worst predicted defeat. So now all bets are off. I mean, I have been listening to you talk about the ongoing uncertainty about leadership in the United States. Well, the United Kingdom looks like this Parliament has set it adrift, because nobody quite knows what's going to happen next.
There were all these ideas that even if the opposition to Prime Minister May, Jeremy Corbyn of the Labor Party, tabled the motion of no confidence in the government, that she would certainly win, because her allies and the other allies that make up a slim majority would prevail.
But that table -- that motion has been tabled, they're going to debate it tomorrow, but people are saying that nobody expected the defeat against this prime minister to be so huge. And so all bets are off. We simply do not know at this moment what is going to happen next.
So not only is Britain here trying to figure out how to get out of the E.U., the European Union, but we now don't know whether there's going to be the prime minister who stays, whether there's going to be a general election, whether there's going to be a whole new set of negotiations and possibly a second referendum on this pivotal deal.
So just to say, outside this Parliament, things are as dysfunctional here as they are with you across the pond.
BALDWIN: Though, as was my husband would say, who is English, we have term limits, you do not.
Christiane Amanpour, stand by for me there outside of the U.K. Parliament.
I have with me now Matthew chance, who is in the crowds.
And so in the wake of this tremendous, tremendous loss for the prime minister, who's there and what are they saying?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the strange thing, Brooke, about this situation with these protesters outside, some of whom are protesting because they want Britain to leave the European Union with or without a deal.
CHANCE: ... celebrating the fact that Theresa May's deal has been defeated so dramatically.
But there are people as well, just over here and actually in the hundreds elsewhere, who are celebrating just as vigorously because they did not support Theresa May's deal anyway. And that sort of underlines part of the problem that the prime minister has, is that her deal was popular with no side on the political divide.
Neither the Brexiteers or the remainers thought it was the right deal for Britain. And what we're seeing now is these extraordinary scenes, with these divided protesters actually united in their celebrations that this deal brokered by Theresa May with Brussels has been flatly rejected on the floor of the British Parliament.
What happens next, as Christiane was saying, is the big thing. These people think this is a step closer towards a Brexit and an exit of Britain from the European Union. The people over there, the remainers, think this defeat of the deal is a step closer to a second referendum and Britain staying within the European Union -- Brooke, back to you.
BALDWIN: OK, Matthew, I think I caught half of that.
The crowds there are just so, so loud, but I appreciate you being there for us.
We're talking about this potential vote, no confidence vote against Theresa May. And so I want to play some sound. This is Justin from Labor Party -- the head of the Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Here he was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEREMY CORBYN, LEADER, LABOR PARTY: The most important issue facing us is that the government has lost the confidence of this house and this country.
I therefore, Mr. Speaker, inform you I have now tabled a motion of no confidence in this government.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CORBYN: And I'm pleased -- I'm pleased that motion will be debated tomorrow, so this house can give its verdict on the sheer incompetence of this government and pass that motion of no confidence in the government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BALDWIN: How colorful in the British Parliament there.
I know Christiane Amanpour is there for us.
And, Christiane, just can you just help translate for us essentially what -- if people aren't as familiar with British politics, Jeremy Corbyn is sort of like that the Bernie Sanders over where you are. And explain to us. Obviously, he says Parliament's incompetent. He doesn't believe Theresa May should be the prime minister any longer.
Tell us more about what he wants and the likelihood of that actually happening.
AMANPOUR: Well, he's not Bernie Sanders, in that he is the actual elected leader of the opposition here.
So he is the leader who would like to see a general election, would like to win. And the fact of the matter is that he is one of the most popular leaders in -- certainly in the Labor Party and in Britain.
However, there still doesn't seem to be a majority to put him over the top in a general election, but most particularly, as it stands right now, there's no majority in Parliament to accede to his vote of no confidence, because they do not want to allow a general election that would potentially pave the way for Jeremy Corbyn to come into power.
But we still don't know whether that will hold, whether those maps -- that math, that arithmetic, will hold, given the scale of this defeat. She lost by more than 400 votes. At the highest and their maximum pessimism, people were saying maybe would she lose by 200. She exceeded that pessimistic prediction by more than double.
And this is a huge, huge, huge issue here. So we just don't know what's going to happen. And, by the way, Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition, is a Brexiter.
He also wants to leave the European Union. He'd like there to be a much better set of links that keep Britain in a much better trading deal with the European Union, but he also wants to leave the European Union. So, as I say, all bets seem to be off right now. We're going to come back to Parliament.
Prime Minister May, despite her defeat, showed no signs of raising the white flag or surrendering or resigning or anything. Let's see what happens tomorrow morning. Let's see if the situation changes.
But you heard Matthew Chance and, as you said, maybe only half of what he said you could hear. That is orchestrated protesters who simply do not want anyone to be heard out here. They're mostly Brexiters. And they want to close the debate down.
First they tried by aggressing members of Parliament. Then they were told they couldn't do that. So they brought all the noise, the drums, the bells and the shouting behind all the correspondents who are out here and the and the M.P.s who don't agree with them.
So that is also an image of the intimidation, the bullying tactics, the real hard line that's being -- that is being sort of wielded by the hard-line Brexiters. And that's the context around this whole debate.
BALDWIN: Christiane Amanpour, thank you so much for that context and what's happened, the biggest loss in British Parliament since 1924, Theresa May there and her Brexit strategy.
Back here in the United States and here in Washington, D.C., this hearing is under way. Senate Judiciary Committee members have been questioning Bill Barr. He is the president's pick to become the next U.S. attorney general.
So let's dive back in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: ... for improved proactive disclosure.
If confirmed, will you commit to help advocate for more proactive disclosure of government records? Now, that's not just by the Justice Department, but because your government -- or your department is top dog in this particular area in the federal government overall.
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE: Yes, Senator.
GRASSLEY: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator Feinstein.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Mr. Barr, I see you have staying power.
(LAUGHTER) FEINSTEIN: I see it runs in the family, and particularly your grandson. I'd like to send a little care package down to him.
FEINSTEIN: He deserves a medal.
BARR: Thank you, Senator.
FEINSTEIN: You're welcome.
GRASSLEY: But he doesn't have to share it with the rest of the family.
FEINSTEIN: In 1994, you said that gun control is a dead end, it won't reduce the level of violent crime in our society.
The year you made this comment, I introduced a federal assault weapons ban, and the president signed it into law. A 2016 study shows that, compared with the 10-year period before the ban was enacted, the number of gun massacres between '94 and '04 fell by 37 percent and the number of people dying from gun massacres fell by 43 percent.
In addition, between 2004 and 2014, there has been a 183 percent increase in massacres and a 239 percent increase in massacre deaths. Do you still believe that prudent controls on weapons won't reduce violent crime? And, if so, what is your basis for this conclusion?
BARR: I think that the problem of our time is to get an effective system in place that can keep dangerous firearms out of the hands of mentally ill people.
That is, should be priority number one, and it's going to take some hard work. And we need to get on top of the problem. We need to come up with agreed-to standards that are prohibited hours of people who are mentally ill. We have to put the resources in to get the system built up the way we did many years ago on the felon records and so forth.
We have to get the system working. And, as I say, it's sort of piecemeal a little bit right now. We need to really get some energy behind it and get it done. And I also think we need to push along the ERPOs, so that we have these red flag laws to supplement the use of the background check to find out if someone has a mental disturbance.
This is the single most important thing I think we can do in the gun control area to stop these massacres from happening in the first place.
FEINSTEIN: Well, thank you. I'd like to work with you in that regard.
In August of 2002, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel issued opinions authorizing enhanced interrogation methods that included water-boarding and extended sleep deprivation. These opinions were later withdrawn.
And the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility found that they reflected a lack of -- this is a quote -- "a lack of thoroughness, objectivity and candor" -- end quote.
In 2015, I worked with Senator McCain to pass legislation making clear that enhanced interrogation techniques are unlawful and limiting authorized interrogation techniques to those listed in the Army Field Manual. And that is the law today.
If confirmed, will you ensure that the Justice Department upholds the law?
BARR: Yes, Senator.
I think that that was an important change, because I think it gave clarity for the law. And I support -- I will support that.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you. I'm delighted to hear that.
Now, a lot of us have asked about the Mueller report and whether you would commit to providing it to Congress. When asked, I thought you said yes. But when I tried to clarify it, I meant the full report, including obstruction of justice, you again said yes.
Then, when Senator Blumenthal asked you about the Mueller report, you seemed to make a distinction and said you were going to provide your own report based on Mueller's report, but not the report -- this is the way we understood it -- but not the report he submits at the end of the investigation.
This is concerning, as there is nothing in the regulations that prevent you from providing Mueller's report to Congress. While the regs refer to a confidential report to be provided to the attorney general, the regs do not state that confidentiality means the report cannot be provided to Congress.
So here's the question. Will you provide Mueller's -- excuse me -- Mueller's report to Congress, not your rewrite or a summary?
BARR: Well, the rags do say that Mueller is supposed to do a summary report of his prosecutive and his declination decisions, and that they will be handled as a confidential document, as are internal documents relating to any federal criminal investigation.
Now, I'm not sure -- and then the A.G. has some flexibility and discretion in terms of the A.G.'s report.
What I am saying is, my objective and goal is to get as much as I can of the information to Congress and the public. And these are departmental regulations. And I'm going to be talking to Rod Rosenstein and Bob Mueller. I'm sure they have had discussions about this. There's probably existing thinking in the department as to how to handle this. But all I can say at this stage, because I have no clue as to what's
being planned, is that I am going to try to get the information out there consistent with these regulations. And to the extent I have discretion, I will exercise that discretion to do that.
FEINSTEIN: Well, I can only speak for this side, and maybe not all this side. But we really appreciate that.
And the degree to which you can get us a prompt report in the fullest possible form would be really appreciated. And I think there has to be a realization too among the administration that this is an issue of real concern to people and to the Congress, and we should be able to see the informed information that comes out.
BARR: I understand.
FEINSTEIN: So, I'm very hopeful. Thank you.
Let me ask this question on enhanced -- did my time run out?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, but go ahead.
FEINSTEIN: On enhanced interrogation.
During a 2005 panel discussion, you said the following, I think, about interrogating suspected terrorists -- and I quote -- "Under the laws of war, absent a treaty, there's nothing wrong with coercive interrogation, applying pain, discomfort, and other things to make people talk, so long as it doesn't cross the line and involve the gratuitous barbarity involved in torture" -- end quote.
This is a panel discussion, civil liberties and security, July 18, 2005.
Do you believe that torture is ever lawful?
FEINSTEIN: Is water-boarding torture?
BARR: I would have to look at the legal definition. You're talking about under the -- right now, it's prohibited. So, the law has definitively dealt with that.
I can't even remember what the old law was that defined torture. I would have to look at that and then figure out what's involved in it. But it...
FEINSTEIN: Keep going. I didn't mean to interrupt you.
BARR: No, it's OK, Senator.
At what point does interrogation cross the line to the gratuitous barbarity involved in torture? That's your quote.
BARR: Well, I wasn't using -- using that as a legal -- the gratuitous barbarity. That's what I was referring -- I was saying, torture is gratuitous barbarity. So I wasn't saying that gratuitous...
FEINSTEIN: Oh. Well, that's helpful then.
FEINSTEIN: That's helpful.
FEINSTEIN: And you define water-boarding. One would think these questions would never be necessary.
I thought that all my life, and then I found I was wrong. And they really are.
And I was chairman of Intelligence when we did the big torture report. And what I found and what I saw was really indicative of reform. So I think, for the attorney general, knowing the position is really very important.
FEINSTEIN: So maybe you could concisely state your position on torture.
BARR: Well, I don't think we should ever use torture.
And I think that the clarification that was -- was it your legislation of the -- putting in the Army...
FEINSTEIN: It was McCain's...
BARR: ... the Field Manual...
FEINSTEIN: That's right.
BARR: ... was important to clarifying where the line is.
FEINSTEIN: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
GRAHAM: Senator Cornyn.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: Mr. Barr, I want to talk about guns and I want to talk about China.
BALDWIN: We will take you back to special coverage here in just a moment.
BALDWIN: We will get you back to Capitol Hill and William Barr here, the president's pick to be the next A.G., in just a second, but breaking news this afternoon.
Two sources tell CNN that Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is expected to enter the 2012 presidential race today.