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Senate Intel Committee Subpoenas Cohen To Testify in Mid- February; Sen. Joni Ernst Speaks Out About Alleged Abuse; Interview with Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI); Maduro Tells Diplomats to Leave Venezuela After U.S. Recognizes Guaido as Leader. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired January 24, 2019 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think the statements that Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump made, particularly getting the family involved, cross the line from your accepted hard-ball tactics to potential obstruction.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: In was kind of the immediate aftermath, Congressman, when Michael Cohen said he wasn't going to testify this week, it was Democrats were upset that he wasn't going to testify about Donald Trump. Republicans had been upset because they were concerned, when he said that there was anything that was being investigated, he wasn't going to be able to talk about. It seemed like everyone was upset on the parameters of this. Unclear if he, when it comes to Senate Intel, if he is going to be testifying in public. I don't think that is even determined quite yet. If we had to guess, unlikely since the Senate Intel proceedings often are not. But I wonder if anyone will be satisfied after this or does this mean a definite subpoena is coming from the House side.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is clear to me, if he testifies before the Senate Intel Committee, that will likely be behind closed doors. In front of the Oversight Committee, OGR, that would be public. I think, on the public testimony, what everybody wants, I think, is to turn Michael Cohen into a pinata. They are going to beat him mercilessly, both sides, I think, for lying to Congress, and, again, back to the "BuzzFeed" story and any truth to that. So I think they are going to annihilate him. This man, I don't know why he thought it was a good idea to testify. He is going to have no choice in the matter. I'm not sure what is going to be resolved as a result of this thing, but he has to be very careful. I don't know what parameters the special counsel has put on Mr. Cohen before he speaks. Elie might be able to give you that sense better than I could.

BOLDUAN: What Senate Intel wants to get from him now before he heads to report for his prison sentence. Much more to come.

Elie, thank you.

Congressman, it's great to see you. Thank you so much.

DENT: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, one of the most powerful Republican women in the Senate speaking out for the first time about a painful past of abuse and assault. It's a story that she had not been planning to tell. Why is she now? You'll want to hear it. Stay with us.


[11:36:28] BOLDUAN: It was a story she wasn't ready to tell. The fourth-highest ranking Republican in the Senate revealing a painful personal past of abuse and rape. Iowa Senator Joni Ernst speaking out for the first time about this, not because she wanted to, but because it was inadvertently revealed in divorce documents. Here emotional account, candid and heartbreaking. It's important because she is not just any public figure. She is one of the most-powerful women in the country, a former fighter pilot, no less.

M.J. Lee is following this. She's here with me right now.

The Senator's story is important at any moment but especially now in the moment that the country is in.

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Just a really powerful moment, especially when you look at the fact that she is one of the highest- ranking female Republicans in the Senate and an Army combat veteran, Kate. She is revealing that she is now a sexual assault survivor. Senator Ernst is one of so many women to come forward in the "Me Too"

era. She says she was forced out as a survivor before she was ready.


SEN. JONI ERNST, (R), IOWA: I think every survivor should have the right to decide when it is their time to tell a story and when it is not their time to tell a story. Unfortunately, that was taken away from me.

LEE (voice-over): Iowa Senator Joni Ernst forced to speak out publicly for the first time about physical and sexual abuse she said she experienced in past relationships after the details in her divorce papers were reported publicly.

ERNST: Those documents were to be sealed. That was our understanding. I was completely caught off guard by that.

LEE: In an interview with "Bloomberg," Ernst said her ex-husband, Gail, physically attacked her during a fight over a decade ago. "He grabbed me by the throat with his hand and threw me on the landing floor and pounded my head on the landing."

The Senator said she reported the incident to a victim's advocate but never filed a police report because she didn't want to embarrass her husband. Adding, "He said it would never happen again and blah, blah, blah, and it didn't, but there was always that underlying threat."

CNN has not reviewed Ernst's divorce filings and has reached out to Gail Ernst for comment but has not received a response.

Ernst also revealing to "Bloomberg" that she was raped by an abusive boyfriend when she was a student at Iowa State University. Ernst said she ended the relationship but never reported the assault

to police, telling "Bloomberg," "I was embarrassed. I didn't know how to explain it. I was so humiliated."

Speaking to reporters, Ernst seeking to reassure other victims.

ERNST: Eventually, things can be OK and you can move beyond them. You don't have to be defined in one bucket or another as being a survivor. You can just be Joni.

LEE: The Republican Senator has been an advocate for sexual assault and domestic abuse survivors for years.

ERNST: People will view my work in those areas, not as a Senator that is working to support them, but now as somebody who has been in that situation that will be supporting them. But what I want to remind everybody is that I'm still the same person as I was a week ago. The only difference is that you know more about me now than you did a week ago.


LEE: Now, one other thing that was reported this week from the divorce affidavit was Gail Ernst's allegation that Senator Ernst had an affair. She categorically denies this.

Ernst is up for re-election in the Senate next year. She tells "Bloomberg" that she wants to move forward with her campaign and be honest about her past now that all of these details have come out into the open -- Kate?

[11:40:08] BOLDUAN: Again, before she was ready to talk about them.

LEE: Yes.

BOLDUAN: You can see her strength in the face of it all. An impossible position to be in.

Thanks, M.J. I really appreciate you coming in. Really amazing.

Coming up for us, as hundreds of thousands of federal workers continue to struggle to put food on the table during the government shutdown, billionaire Commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, today suggested that they should get a loan. I'm going to play what he said for you and you decide what to make of it. That's next.


[11:45:15] BOLDUAN: We have breaking news this hour. President Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, who just yesterday said he no longer was going to be testifying before a House committee, is facing a subpoena to testify before the Senate.

Joining me right now, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, of Michigan.

Congresswoman, thanks for coming in.

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL, (D), MICHIGAN: Glad to be here.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

I want to get your reaction to that news. Do you think -- he is being subpoenaed by Senate Intel? Do you think either House Oversight or Senate Intel, should subpoena Michael Cohen to make him testify as well?

DINGELL: I think that we have two very able chairmen. I think subpoena is something you use carefully and cautiously. I think it is important to know what he has to tell us. We have heard in the last 24 to 48 hours about his family being threatened, his being fearful of testifying. We have to know what the truth is. I think our chairmen need to make sure we get the truth.

BOLDUAN: And maybe after he reports for prison, which we will definitely find out soon enough.

I want to also ask you about the mess, about the shutdown. You introduced a measure yesterday to allow federal workers to get unemployment benefits while they're working and not being paid. It is co-sponsored by a Republican, I want to point out. Even if your measure would pass the House and the Senate, do you think the president would sign it?

DINGELL: I don't know what he would do. I certainly hope he would. He has public servants. They are not Republicans or Democrats. They are good people that serve us in so many different ways that are working. They have been working for 33 days. Our governor wrote a letter with several other governors because these people are desperate. I'm hearing stories every day. They are people willing to take a bullet for the protectee, trying to explain to their children why they have to worry about where to get food from. A mother, who is an essential employee, that is losing her child's place in daycare because she can't afford to pay for it, so she is working the midnight shift at Denny's. We need to help these people out. It is our responsibility to help them. When they are worried in all of these Catch 22s from credit ratings, to how they're going to pay their bills, you have to worry about whether they are able to do their job, either. I would hope that the president someplace in that heart of his has some compassion and would be willing to help people.

BOLDUAN: With that in mind, something's got to give. I say this every day. I have to keep saying it. Something's got to give at some point. Do you think you can agree to money for border security if it includes some money for the wall, if it did get the government open again and get these people back to work and being paid?

DINGELL: I think we have to reopen the government. We shouldn't be negotiating while the government is closed. Let's reopen it. We need to have strong border security. There may be places where some kind of border protection may be appropriate. But it also needs to be more Custom or Border patrols, technology, drones. Let's get in the room and have that discussion. Let's stop holding these public servants hostages. At this point, we have to reopen the government and then have that discussion. I think the president would be surprised at what Democrats will sit and negotiate. It would be $5 million for border security. We all want to keep our nation safe. It's how do we do that and best accomplish it.

BOLDUAN: I don't know if you have heard the sound bytes from the interviews. I do want to play them for you. We are talking about federal workers not getting back to work. We have heard from former Homeland Security secretaries about what their workers are having to do to take charitable donations to put food on the table.

I want to play for you what the secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, as well as the president's daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, both have said about federal workers going without pay.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: There are reports that there are some federal workers who are going to homeless shelters to get food.

WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: I know they are. And I don't really quite understand why, because, as I mentioned before, the obligations that they would undertake, say, borrowing from a bank or credit union, are, in effect, federally guaranteed. So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out is, there's no real reason why they shouldn't be able to get a loan against it. And we've seen a number of ads --


ROSS: -- from financial institutions doing that.

LARA TRUMP, DAUGHTER-IN-LAW OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: Listen, it's not fair to you, and we all get that, but this is so much bigger than any one person. It is a little bit of pain, but it's going to be for the future of our country.


BOLDUAN: What's your reaction to that?

[11:50:04] DINGELL: When I first heard it, I was like, well, let them eat cake. Hello, France. It is outrageous. These are my constituents. Many of us have constituents. When I go home, the first thing I do is meet with them. They are in tears. They're looking at Catch-22 situations where they can't even figure out how to get help. These people, these billionaires that are in all of these cabinet positions have no idea how many people are living paycheck to paycheck. They're good, hard-working people. A TSA agent is making $28,000 at a beginning salary. I bet Wilbur Ross spends $28,000 on a meal for a weekend sometimes when he takes his wine and everything. Let's get with the real world. Let's understand what these really good working men and women are living on, struggling with. And let's understand that they haven't been paid in 33 days. And we've got a moral responsibility to do something for these public servants who are working for .

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, I have interviewed you many times, and this is --- you're mad.

DINGELL: I am mad. Because I've got one -- I've got an FBI agent who will kill me for even -- I shouldn't say that word --

BOLDUAN: I understand.

DINGELL: -- who wrote me two weeks ago. That person, I'm not going to give it away, is so angry, and they write me every day. And I'm desperate. I want to say, I do get it, we're trying to do something. These people are desperate and they're right to be as angry and desperate as they are.

BOLDUAN: OK, with this passion that I hear from you, do you think -- is this so much wrapped up in politics. Do you give a little to get a lot, which is getting these people back to work?

DINGELL: Look, I don't think compromise is a dirty word. I've said that many times. I do think that we're holding people hostage over reopening the government. I think we have to reopen the government. That should happen, that should be there, and then we can get in the room and let's get in regular order. Reopen Homeland Security for three weeks. Now that we've got that deadline, I think the country would be pleasantly surprised to see where Republicans and Democrats can agree how we need a number of effective measures to keep this nation safe, period.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, I know this is quite a turn, but you've spoken about this in the past, and I do want to get your reaction. You've talked about in the past sexual harassment in the past that you have faced. I don't know if you've been able to hear it, but Republican Senator Joni Ernst, she is speaking about a very painful past about abuse and even being raped in college. This is before she wanted to speak about it. She was kind of forced to talk about it once it was made public.

Let me play for you what she says in reaction to all of this coming out and having to speak about this now.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Will this change what you're doing moving forward, and how has this changed you personally?

ERNST: What I want to remind everybody is that I'm still the same person as I was a week ago. The only difference is that you know more about me now than you did a week ago.


BOLDUAN: What does this mean to you, hearing from her like this?

DINGELL: Frankly, it makes me want to cry. I've had different incidences, sexual harassment, and the kinds of things that she talked about that happened to her when she was younger. I have, to this day, never talked about incidences or who they were, and I know my life would be forever changed if I told the whole story. And that's what people don't understand. I've talked a little more about living in a home where there's been domestic violence, but people don't understand how it scars you for life. People tried to blackmail me when they found some records 20 years ago when people didn't understand. I had never intended to really talk about it the first time I did. And to be really honest with you, there are days I can't. People will want me to talk about it and I can't. My sister says that if we can keep one person from going through what we did, we need to do it. But you don't understand. My heart goes out to her and I will be with Joni Ernst wherever she is trying to stick up for sexual assault survivors and domestic violence survivors. Because you do survive. You can go on. It doesn't define you. But it never stops hurting.

BOLDUAN: Oh, that breaks my heart. But thank you for your strength. Yes.

Congresswoman, thank you for coming on.

DINGELL: We're not going to start crying.

BOLDUAN: Yes, I know. We're done. We're done now.

Congresswoman, thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.

[11:54:38] All right, guys. We'll be right back.


BOLDUAN: Take a look at these images. Just take a look at this. When you see this, you know something big is happening. This is Caracas, Venezuela, just yesterday, as massive crowds protested against embattled President Nicolas Maduro. There's been violence and clashes in the streets. National Guard members launching tear gas canisters at anti-government demonstrators. And Maduro has now given U.S. diplomats 72 hours to leave the country after the Trump administration recognized an opposition figure as the nation's legitimate leader. What's happening here?

CNN senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski, is at the State Department and she's joining me now.

Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, he just spoke about this, Michelle. What is he saying?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, on the ground there, we're seeing Maduro order all U.S. diplomats out of the country. The military backs him, the U.S. no longer sees him as president, so what do you do? Right now, a senior State Department official is telling us the U.S. currently has no plans to close the U.S. embassy there. But they are looking at the situation. So things could change based on the situation on the ground. We are going to be watching that closely as well. The State Department, though, says safety and security are a top concern.

So we just heard from Secretary Mike Pompeo, at this emergency session at the Organization of American States, this afternoon, deliver a scathing speech against the Maduro regime, calling it illegitimate, profoundly corrupt, morally bankrupt, urging other countries that are part of the AOS to follow along and to follow the rule of law here. He also pledged $20 million in U.S. support in humanitarian assistance, but it can only get there when it's logistically possible -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: This is not something that's over any time soon. We need to watch it closely.

Thanks, Michelle. I really appreciate it.

And thank you, guys. Thanks so much for joining me today. Quite a roller coaster as it always is. Thanks for joining me.

"INSIDE POLITICS" with John King starts right now.