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Stone Pleads Not Guilty; Whitaker Comment on Probe; Interview with Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT); Harris Vows to Eliminate Private Insurance. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 29, 2019 - 13:00   ET


[13:00:00] JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us today on INSIDE POLITICS. See you back here this time tomorrow.

Don't go anywhere. It's a busy news day. Brianna Keilar starts right now. Have a great afternoon.


I'm Brianna Keilar, live from CNN's Washington headquarters.

Underway right now, the man with the Nixon tattoo, Roger Stone, enters his plea, but what does Robert Mueller have in store for him?

And the officials in charge of keeping America safe directly contradicting President Trump's claims on North Korea, ISIS, and climate change in alarming testimony.

Plus, the mystery of the yellow notepad deepens. Why John Bolton's scribbled notes about deploying U.S. troops are raising concerns.

And Kamala Harris becoming the latest 2020 contender to pitch Medicare for all, which would end private insurance. But is it realistic or just a pipe dream?

Up first, Roger Stone's day in court. The long-time Trump adviser and confidant pleaded not guilty to charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Stone smiled and he waved to the crowd as he entered the federal courthouse in Washington this morning. And these seven charges against him include five counts of making false statements, one count of obstruction and one count of witness tampering.

Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger is here with us, along with our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.

And so, Evan, we know that Stone's accused of lying to Congress about his communications when it comes to WikiLeaks' and public -- WikiLeaks publishing those stolen e-mails. These were e-mails that were meant to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. How serious are these charges against him?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, these are serious. I mean I think you're beginning to see, and perhaps a change in Roger Stone's demeanor. You know he's -- we're sort of used to seeing a little bit of a circus around him. And I think his lawyers have finally maybe persuaded him that this is serious stuff. His lawyers certainly view it as a serious case.

And if you look at the indictment, I mean, there is his text messages, there's his e-mails. The government has a lot of evidence piled up against him. So, you know, I think he ought to try to look at this as very serious. He could be in prison for years if he is convicted, obviously. We don't know whether or not the president might turn to a pardon. But at least until then, I mean, you know, he's facing some serious consequences here.

KEILAR: We're waiting, all of us, for the totality in the Mueller report to be out. And we just heard the attorney -- the acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, telling reporters that he thinks this investigation is, quote, close to being completed. Congressman Gerry Connolly, he's a Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, he blasted this comment. Let's listen.


REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D), OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: I think it's inappropriate for the acting attorney general to be commenting on an ongoing criminal investigation under his auspices.


CONNELLY: I think it shows why Mr. Whitaker is not fit for the appointment he received.


KEILAR: What did you make of this comment, of Whitaker's comment, that Mueller could be almost done?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, let's just say he got a little out over his skis. It seems to me that Connolly has a point there, that we're not used to, and Evan knows this better than I am, to -- people from the Justice Department commenting on ongoing investigations, particularly when they're not the investigations that they are conducting. And all kinds of questions get raised about this. The question is, was he trying to please Donald Trump? Was he trying --

KEILAR: Who wants it to be over soon.

BORGER: Who wants it to be over. Was he trying to pressure Mueller to get it done? And the thing that sort of worried everybody, particularly Democrats, was when Whitaker said, I'm comfortable that the decisions that were made are going to be reviewed through the various means we have. Well, what does that mean?


BORGER: Does it -- you know, does it mean, don't worry if you don't like it, we're going to -- we're going to review it?

PEREZ: Well, look, I think also you could see almost from the video of him speaking there that he seemed to be stumbling his way into this.


PEREZ: I don't think he intended to say all of this. Certainly Chris Wray, the FBI director, who was standing behind him, sort of had this eyebrow that went up. I think everybody was hoping that he would just stop, because I think everybody at the Justice Department would prefer Matt Whitaker to not be the person to talk about this.

And, look, keep in mind, there's a new attorney general who is going to probably be the one handling this. Bill Barr is probably going to be confirmed in the next three weeks or so. So Matt Whitaker probably will not be the man who will be handling this report when -- whenever Mueller's finished with it. So that's the other reason why it was such a strange thing to -- for Whitaker to be -- to be talking about yesterday.

KEILAR: Like he nervously just added that.


BORGER: Well, it was sort of the deer in the headlights kind of a thing.


BORGER: And I think he realized as soon as he said what he said --


BORGER: That he shouldn't have said it. And then he, you know, he tried to back out of it but he only dug himself in deeper.

KEILAR: So despite this assertion for Whitaker that the Mueller probe is close to ending, there's actually indications that another indictment is in the works. An attorney for former Roger Stone employee Andrew Miller says that Mueller still wants Miller to testify before the grand jury.

[13:05:09] And tell us why that's so significant.

PEREZ: Well, I think one of the -- the indications certainly from the lawyers is that the Mueller team still wants this testimony. So he's been fighting this subpoena. It's been going through the court process and it's before the appeals court. And one indication that we're getting from that is that there's a possibility that what Mueller's looking to do is perhaps do a second indictment, a superseding indictment of Roger Stone.

Now, we've seen this in other cases. Paul Manafort, you had the initial charges and then months later there were additional charges that were added. So it is possible that that's what we're looking at.

If you listen to the president, people close to the president, one of the things that they've been sort of almost giddy about is that there was no -- what they say, no collusion in the indictment that was unsealed on Friday. Well, you know, it may well be that Mueller's not finished yet. It may well be that, you know, the narrative about whatever conspiracy there might have been is laid out in a report. So there's a lot of, I think, unanswered questions that we all still have that may be answered in the weeks and months ahead.

BORGER: Even though --

KEILAR: I want to as you about this, Gloria, because the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, was insisting that this indictment has nothing to do with the president.

BORGER: As she has with everyone.

KEILAR: As she has. But this was particularly interesting. She had this exchange with our Jim Acosta.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Is the president concerned that as more and more of his associates, former aides are brought into this investigation, are indicted, plead guilty in this investigation, that this presidency is in danger?

SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Not at all. In fact, I think nothing could be further from the truth. The more that this goes on, the more and more we see that none of these things have anything to do with the president.


KEILAR: Some are saying, oh, these are process things in these indictments, but they're lying -- these are people repeat -- multiple people lying repeatedly. Why are they lying?

BORGER: Well, and all of them worked for Donald Trump. I mean it -- this isn't a campaign organization -- you covered Hillary Clinton. This isn't a campaign organization that was huge and top-heavy. There were maybe a dozen, if that many, key people in the campaign.

And when you look at the names of people who have been indicted, some of whom are now cooperating, they are people who were at the top of this campaign. And when you talk to people about how Donald Trump manages, he's a micromanager. He knows everything. It's not like he's a great delegator. He loves to gossip with his staff, which is why he used to continue to talk to Roger Stone, provided great gossip for him.

So this is a man who knew what was going on in his campaign. And so it's very hard for people to believe that Donald Trump knew absolutely nothing about any of the things that were going on, whether it was the Trump Tower meeting with Don Junior and the Russians, or whether it was what Roger Stone was up to potentially with WikiLeaks. That's kind of a -- that's kind of hard to believe.

PEREZ: And they've come -- they've come so far, too, right?

BORGER: Right.

PEREZ: I mean at the beginning there was no collusion at all.

BORGER: Right.

PEREZ: Now there's no collusion involving the president.

BORGER: The president. Right.

PEREZ: So it's sort of like, you know, we forget about the initial defense that they have.

KEILAR: Yes, that's a really good point.

Evan, thank you.

Gloria, thank you.

A sobering assessment today from America's security officials. In a Senate hearing, those officials broke with the White House, saying that North Korea is unlikely to give up their nuclear weapons, that ISIS will continue attacks against western forces in Syria. They also added that bad actors like Russia will try to use new tactics to interfere in the next presidential election. Listen to this.


GEN. ROBERT ASHLEY, DIRECTOR, DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY: There still is a substantial military capacity that Kim Jong-un wields.

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: We currently access that North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.

The group has returned to its guerrilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide. ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.

SEN. ANGUS KING (D), SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Since our departure from the deal, they have abided by the terms. You're saying they're considering, but at the current moment they're --

GINA HASPEL, CIA DIRECTOR: Yes, they're making some preparations that would increase their ability to take a step back if they make that decision.

COATS: We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Not only the Russians continue to do it in 2018, but we've seen an indication that they're continuing to adapt their model and that other countries are taking a very interested eye in that approach.


KEILAR: Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats also contradicted the president on climate change, saying, quote, global environmental and ecological degradation, as well as climate change, are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.

[13:10:06] We have Utah Republican Congressman Chris Stewart joining us now.

Sir, thank you so much for being with us.

And you're on the Intel Committee, so I know that you've been watching this with a keen eye as you hear these assessments. I wonder, in particular, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats telling Congress that U.S. allies and partners are actually seeking ways to go around the United States when it comes to security and trade, according to those countries because of the president -- his changing policies. What did you think about that assessment?

REP. CHRIS STEWART (R), UTAH: Well, I think, at the end of the day, every nation is going to do what's in their best interests, as will the United States. And, in some cases -- I just met with the European parliament, some members from Europe, and, in some cases, they view the world differently and their interests are different than ours. In that case, they will go around our policies to achieve what they think is important.

But there's -- but this is what we know --

KEILAR: But let me ask you, is that -- is that's what's best for the U.S., because if they weren't going around on the U.S. on some of these policies before, and now they are, I mean if the U.S. wants to do what's in its best interest, isn't it to have these countries not going around the U.S.?

STEWART: Well, Brianna -- Brianna, of course they did that before. They always had their interest at heart. This isn't something that developed with President Trump. For heaven sakes, every president of the United States in our history, our allies are going to do what's in their interest. And our interests are not always 100 percent alliant (ph). So this is nothing new at all.

And there's also this. In many ways, and again this has reinforced me in my conversations this morning with these European leaders, our relationship with them is in many ways strong than it's been. NATO is a really good example of that. The president challenged them, you have to contribute to NATO. You have to make those commitments and achieve those commitments you've made. They recognize that they have been doing that. They, in most cases, are now. Those are things that are good and helpful for our relationships and our partnerships.

KEILAR: Why did Dan Coats bring it up as something new, then, if it's not something new, as you say?

STEWART: Well, I don't think he brought it up as something new. I think he brought it up as, this is a reality we have to deal with, as we have, and it's one of the things that we have to assume and that is going to continue to happen and develop policies to mitigate it or to work around it.

But, look, this isn't a political observation. This is just a matter of fact of history. Our allies will do what is in their interest, and our interests don't always align. That's not disputable. That's just true. It was true 100 years ago. It was true four years ago under Barack Obama. It's true now. It will be true 10 years into the future.

KEILAR: What did you think about Coats saying about North Korea that it's not going to give up their nukes, that it's continuing to develop its nuclear program. Is that really a strong foundation for the president as he is planning this summit -- and another summit with Kim Jong-un?

STEWART: Well, it's based on reality, and it's something, by the way, that I have always felt in my conversations with Mr. Coats, with Mr. Pompeo, a good friend of mine who we sat on Intel together. Of course he went to CIA first. We've had deep conversations about this.

I have never been persuaded that Kim Jong-un was ready to give up his nuclear program right now under these circumstances, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try and it doesn't mean that we shouldn't have these negotiations. The conversation between this president and this -- and this leader, Kim Jong-un, are very important. And if we don't have those conversations, then we'll never convince them. And if we can't convince them to give up their nuclear program, can we do something less than that, that's still good, give up their ballistic missile program. Give up some of their hostile activities and their threats towards the west specifically in a Pacific region. There are still some good things that we might be able to accomplish with them, and -- but you can't do that if you're not talking.

KEILAR: Why would they give up their ballistic missiles but not their capability to tip those with a nuclear weapon?

STEWART: Well, I'm not sure that they will. But they are separate. Missiles have a separate weapons programs, separate issues, and they actually have some different interests, so it's something that we should, again, ask them and see if we can -- they can accommodate some of our -- some of our concerns there. But whether it's ballistic missiles or whether it's a nuclear program, whether it's trade, whether it's some of their hostile actions in the region, all of those are separate issues. There's a little bit of overlap between them all, but let's have conversations about all of them.

KEILAR: So the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell just said that he's going to offer an amendment that calls for U.S. troops to stay in Syria and Afghanistan. As you know, the president has announced the withdrawal from Syria. We're expecting that from Afghanistan. McConnell says it's because terror groups still pose a significant threat there.


KEILAR: And this contradicts what the president has said. What do you think about this?

STEWART: Well, you know, I wish you wouldn't do this, and I know -- I know it's kind of, you know, your view on this, but everything isn't just because it's a conflict with the president. I do think there's some nuance in all of this.

But I disagree with the president in the sense of his suggestion that we withdrawal from Syria. We have very important, strategic interests there. Minimizing Russia's influence, especially in the (INAUDIBLE) court, minimizing their Shia (INAUDIBLE) that allows them this bridge, this land bridge in a highway from Damascus into Iran -- in the heart of Iran. Their -- our interests in protecting the Kurds, which I think we are achieving these goals that are important with a few thousand troops. And I disagree and I continue to disagree with our president's proposal to withdrawal from there.

[13:15:32] Afghanistan, I actually think there may be room there for us to have a conversation. We've got about 14,000 troops there now. As a former military member, Brianna, I know you know this about me, but, look, we have used up our military. It's been hard on our soldiers, on our equipment, on their families, and we may be at a point in Afghanistan where we could consider a withdrawal. We think we've got some breakthroughs or near breakthroughs with the Taliban and them agreeing not to host any terrorist organizations within their borders. If we can do that, I'm open to a conversation in Afghanistan. But I disagree with our president on his proposal that we can withdrawal our troops from Syria right now.

KEILAR: And I just want to make something clear from the start of what you said there, that's -- that's not my view to bring it up just because there is a contradiction or to show daylight. This is significant when you're talking about the commander in chief and the top Republican in Congress having a difference of opinion on this. This is important. That is newsworthy. I just want to put that out there.

STEWART: Yes, OK, and that's fair, but everything -- there are differences of opinion or varying degrees of opinion on nearly every subject. And I think Mr. McConnell has a view that may be different than mine. And mine, obviously, is different than the president's on this issue.

KEILAR: Well, it sounds like you guys actually have more in common on this -- on this topic.


KEILAR: But I want to move on -- you and McConnell, to be clear on this.


KEILAR: I want to talk about border security negotiations because you have said -- so you've got these 17 members of the House, senators, bipartisan group here. They're trying to hash out some sort of plan here in the next couple of weeks. You say you'd be surprised if a deal can be reached. Are you at least encouraged by the fact that one of the Democratic conferees, Senator John Tester of Montana, he said that he's hoping for an end result of what he says, quote, broad-based measures to secure the border, including manpower, wall technology. And he said that he thinks the wall should be on the table for discussion.

Does that change sort of your assessment? Tell us about why your assessment is not optimism.

STEWART: Yes. Yes, and, I'm sorry, and I don't mean to be pessimistic on this. I want to give this group of 17 the latitude to work. I'm encouraging them. I pray and hope that they're successful. And I'm glad to hear an individual, like Mr. Tester and others, you know, come to in what appears to be a very sincere effort to find some area of compromise.

My fear is, and the reason I've been a little pessimistic on that, and that is, they, ultimately, won't make the decision. The leadership of the Democratic Party, in this case Miss Pelosi, and as you know, the leader in the Senate, they have enormous influence on this. And Speaker Pelosi has been incredibly adamant on her view on this. I will not give you a dollar. And then later on, I will not give you a penny for the wall.

Now, maybe these 17 can persuade her, but she's been pretty adamant on that. She feels like she won on the shutdown and I'm not sure that she's incentivized right now to give on something that she feels like she's already won that battle. I hope that she will for the good of -- for the good of the American people and for the good of border security and for the good of goodwill in the Congress, I hope she'll be willing to compromise a little bit on this. We'll wait and see, I guess.

KEILAR: She listened -- and the majority of Americans don't want a wall.

STEWART: Yes. Well that -- frankly, it depends on what polling you look at. But, also, I don't want a wall. I mean when asked -- when many times they're asking the American people, do you want a wall, and people envision this 2,000-mile wall from Texas to San Diego. And I wouldn't support that and never have. And I think many times that's what people have in mind. But if you were to ask them, do you think it's appropriate in some places for us to have a physical barrier, I mean, almost all Americans get that. Almost all Americans agree with that proposal. And that's what we're talking about here. We're not talking about a 2,000-mile wall. We're talking about in places that professionals tell us we need a physical barrier here, I don't know any American who says, no, I don't -- I wouldn't support that. I think most of them would.

KEILAR: Maybe. It may depend on what each side calls it, as you know, congressman.


KEILAR: Congressman Chris Stewart, thank you so much for being with us.

STEWART: Thank you, Brianna.

Senator Kamala Harris vowing to get rid of private insurance in favor of Medicare for all, but is this realistic?

Plus, John Bolton's scribbled note about sending 5,000 troops to Colombia caught on camera. Was this on purpose? Was it accidental? And how significant is this?

[13:19:53] And he's the former White House aide selling a tell-all book. But during a live CNN interview today, the president responded to him in real-time. See what happened.


KEILAR: Senator Kamala Harris is making an aggressive healthcare pitch to voters as she launches her 2020 presidential campaign. In the first CNN town hall of this campaign season, the Democratic candidate told Iowa voters that she feels very strongly about Medicare for all, backing a government health system that would replace private insurance.

Our chief business correspondent Christine Romans took a look at what all of this means.

Christine, tell us.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, she is staking out the progressive flank on this, cutting insurance companies out of the market and allowing all Americans into Medicare. Medicare, of course, is the government-run health insurance program for Americans 65 years old and older. And it also includes some people under 65 with disabilities.

[13:25:06] Now, Democrats are refining their position on expanding that to more Americans. Some plans include adding Americans younger than 65, bringing the starting age to 50. Many of these Medicare expansion plans included a role for the insurance companies. Cutting them out is a litmus test for progressives. Senator Harris accused insurance companies of thinking only of their bottom lines and of burdening Americans with paperwork and approval processes. It's something that resonates with voters, yet many Americans don't want to give up the coverage they have.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found 74 percent of respondents favor a national health insurance program similar to Medicare, but that also allows people to keep the coverage they currently have. Only 56 percent said they favor Medicare for all, which all Americans would get their insurance from a single, government plan.

Now, expect all the candidates in the Democratic field to hone their Medicare for all positions and for insurance companies and the GOP to oppose them.

Interesting as well, Howard Schultz, who has said he is considering an independent bid, he said eliminating the insurance companies is un- American.


KEILAR: All right, Christine Romans, thank you.

And before I get to my next guest, listen to what Michael Bloomberg just said about Kamala Harris' plan as he considers a run for president.


QUESTION: Kamala Harris said last night that she would be in favor of eliminating -- cut insurance and replacing it with Medicare for all. What is your position? Can (INAUDIBLE)?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR CONSIDERING 2020 RUN: I think you could never afford that. You're talking about trillions of dollars. I think you can have Medicare for all for people that are uncovered, but -- because that's a smaller group and a lot of them are taking care of on Medicaid already -- Medicare. But to replace the entire private system where companies provide health care for their employees would bankrupt us for a very long time.


KEILAR: Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel was one of the architects of Obamacare.

Sir, thank you so much for being with us.


KEILAR: So it's awesome to have you here to talk about this because you have strong opinions about this. And I want to see if they are standing the test of time as all these Democrats are coming out for Medicare for all.

You said in 2014, quote, single payer, zero chance. Then you went on to say, I'm not wasting any of my time on it. You said this is not going to happen in your lifetime.

So when you hear Democrats saying this and you hear a lot of voters loving this idea, do you still think it's a pipe dream?

EMANUEL: Oh, I think it's got more political reality than we did in 2014 for a number of reasons. One of which is, the Republican's repeated attempt to undercut the Affordable Care Act and undercut Americans getting insurance through private insurance companies with subsidies, and that makes more Americans worried about, am I going to have insurance? What if I lost my job? Would there be something there for me?

In fact, I think one of the interesting phenomena's that in August and then again in October, two polls show that over half of Republicans could endorse Medicare for all, and that suggests to you that this is -- transcends ideology. It's about -- worried about -- people are worried about whether they're going to have health coverage, and that gets very visceral. And so I think you could see -- you know, I've -- politics changes on a dime, and I think you could see strong support for the right kind of program.

KEILAR: So you might end up eating your words, do you think, on the timing of that?

EMANUEL: Well, it's day -- history is -- I was right on the history, but things have changed. And again, I think part of what's changed over the last four years is the fact that Republicans continue to undermine the private system that we established in the Affordable Care Act. And people say, well, if I can't rely on the system, I need something I can rely on and I have -- don't have to worry about. And you turn to the thing that seems most reliable, and that's Medicare.

KEILAR: The cost is -- I mean the cost is really the issue here. You heard Michael Bloomberg talk about trillions of dollars.

EMANUEL: Well --

KEILAR: It would be trillions of dollars. So -- so but why --

EMANUEL: Wait a second, I think we need to -- I think we need to be careful about what Mayor Bloomberg said. The net cost is no different. As a matter of fact, very conservative institute at George Mason University assessed, the cost is not going to be different under Medicare for all than under the current system. It's where that comes out. Does it come out in private insurance and through employers or does it come out through taxes and the federal government?


EMANUEL: The net cost is not going to be different. The issue is where -- which category it gets logged into. And we should be very clear about that, going to Medicare for all is not going to raise the total cost of health care. It's going to just change where it's logged in the accounting books.