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AT THIS HOUR
Trump Blasts FBI Arrest of Roger Stone; Trump: Mueller Report Decision Up to Justice Department; Mueller Says Russians Shared Confidential Information to Discredit Probe; Trump Rages Against Top Intel Chief Dan Coats; Schumer to Dan Coats: Set Trump Straight on National Security; Nancy Pelosi on Shutdown Negotiations: No Wall Money; Interview with Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX). Aired 11-11:30a ET
Aired January 31, 2019 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[11:00:00] POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: It totally was.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: It'll be tough to walk at the end of this week.
Andy Scholes --
HARLOW: Andy, we'll see you tomorrow.
Thank you all for being with us. We'll see you here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.
SCUTTO: And I'm Jim Scuitto.
"AT THIS HOUR" with Kate Bolduan starts right now.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.
President Trump says he could have but he didn't when it comes to ending the Russia investigation. Here is a quote for you: "They will have to make their decision within the Justice Department. They will make the decision as to what they do. I could have taken a much different stance. I could have gotten involved in this. I could have terminated everything."
But now he says he didn't and he isn't. A show of restraint from the very president who has long dismissed the investigation as a hoax and a witch hunt.
President Trump also declaring that he hasn't spoken to the acting attorney general, Matt Whittaker, about when the investigation will end.
All of this coming out in an interview with the new conservative Web site, "The Daily Caller"."
And there's much more.
CNN's Sarah Westwood is at the White House.
Sarah, the president also blasted the arrest of his longtime adviser, Roger Stone, the arrest by the FBI. What is he saying and what could it mean?
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Kate. President Trump expressing what sounded like sympathy for Stone, who he has known for a long time, over the way FBI agents took Stone into custody last week. In that interview with "The Daily Caller" President Trump was denouncing the number of FBI agents that showed up, the presence of armored cars at Stone's house. And he's claiming others objected to the methods deployed by the FBI in this case, saying, "I'm speaking for a lot of people that were very disappointed to see that go down that way." When asked whether he would review the use of these tactics in the future he said, "I think it is a good question and it's something I'll think about." He also argued that Stone didn't pose a risk of harming the FBI agents who showed up at his house.
Trump also said he would allow the Justice Department to make the determination of whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report is made public. It had been an open question as to whether the president's legal team would try to use executive privilege to keep that report from the public. Trump suggesting he will allow the attorney general, who will be the first one to receive Mueller's findings, to decide whether all or part of that report should go to Congress and the public.
When might we see that report? Acting Attorney General Matthew Whittaker suggested earlier this week that it could be soon. Trump says he hasn't discussed the conclusion of the Russia probe with Whittaker. Although, he opined he hopes the Russia investigation ends soon. Keep in mind, Trump is telling "The Daily Caller" all of this about the Russia investigation, Kate, as we haven't seen him speak publicly in six days now.
BOLDUAN: That is very true.
Sarah, thank you so much.
There's much more to get at about the Russia investigation. The special counsel is arguing in court that information they handed over to a Russian company as part of the discovery process in their legal battle with them has somehow ended up online pushed by a pro Russia Twitter account. It's more than 1,000 documents that we are talking about.
CNN's Kara Scannell is in Washington with more on this.
Kara, these documents, it's not that they were pushed out but it's also that they were altered. What are you hearing about this?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Kate. All of this was revealed in a court filing yesterday involving the special counsel's case against Concord Management, and Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as Putin's chef because of his close ties to the Kremlin. What we learned in this filing is the special counsel's office is saying that non-sensitive information that they shared with the defense team has ended up in Russia online in a portal and altered. What they have alleged is that there was a Twitter account created in October. It was created in Russia, according to the special counsel's office. They posted to an online portal saying here are documents relating to Robert Mueller's investigation of Concord. It posted over 1,000 files, some of them were altered. It was this batch of non-sensitive material. So the special counsel's office is saying that now that is time to share the sensitive material in this case, they don't want the same thing to happen. They don't want it to end up in Russia. They are asking the judge to make sure that this information is contained in the U.S. And if the defendants want to see it, that they should come to the U.S. and look at it with their attorneys. They don't want it to end up in Russia. Not just because of the documents being posted online now and in some altered form to discredit the investigation. Also because they said that there are identifications of individuals and entities that have not been charged in this case but that the U.S. believes is continuing to try to interfere in U.S. politics -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: Kara, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. Clearly much more to come on that.
Joining me to discuss, Elie Honig and Jennifer Rodgers, CNN legal analysts and former federal prosecutors.
It's great to see you guys. Thanks for being here.
If we can, let's flip-flop. Let's start with the president talking about the Russia investigation. He said he is going to leave the decision about the final report up to the Justice Department, if and when, if and how and when to release the Mueller report.
If he stays out of it, Elie, what then is there left for the Justice Department to consider on this?
[11:05:13] ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is not some great concession by the president. The regulations say that it is up to the Department of Justice what to do with the report. The way it is supposed to work is Mueller files his report with the attorney general, whether it is Matthew Whittaker or whether William Barr is confirmed by then remains to be seen. Then the attorney general has a couple of important decision points about whether to release it, what to release, how much, whether to allow objections for executive privilege. The president is supposed to have no part in this. He says I could have shut it down at any time. Perhaps. But only at his own political and legal peril.
BOLDUAN: Trump says he hasn't talked to Matt Whittaker about it. We know Bill Barr, picked for A.G., has testified he hasn't spoken to Trump about the Mueller investigation. It is not like the president hasn't made clear over and over again, in every way, shape or form, in every avenue, to make clear his opinion about the whole thing. Speaking to them directly, does it mean much?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's good in the sense that you don't want the president to be directly leaning on them. We all know what he thinks. Barr knows what he thinks. Whitaker knows what he thinks. At least he is not in their and lobbying them and trying to interfere with them in person. At the end of the day, they know what the commander-in-chief wants to happen here. We are relying on the integrity of Bill Barr to do the right thing, to comply with the regulations and release as much as they possibly can.
BOLDUAN: Stand by to stand by on that one.
Also with the interview with "The Daily Called," the president criticized, as we were getting to with Sarah Westwood, criticized how the arrest of Roger Stone went down. When you look at the interview, he didn't raise it. He was asked about it. He was asked about the FBI and the conduct, if you will, the tactics by the reporter. He does say it is a good question about the tactics of whether the FBI tactics went too far or should be reviewed. Is it a good question about the FBI tactics?
HONIG: Not in this case. Roger Stone brought this on himself. Period. Anytime you need to arrest somebody, you have two options as a prosecutor and the FBI. You can allow them the courtesy of surrendering at a future time and date, or you can do exactly what was done with Roger Stone. You knock on the door at 6:00 a.m. Roger Stone is charged with strong counts of obstruction, witness tampering. The indictment, he said be prepared to die. He threatened to kidnap a witness's dog. When you do that kind of thing, you give away the right to the courtesy of surrender. Also, remember, Mueller's team had a search warrant for the home. Meaning you got a judge to agree --
HONIG: Right. Who agreed that there's probable cause there's evidence of crimes in there. You can't tell someone we need you to surrender tomorrow at 11:00 a.m., at which point, we will be searching your home. The whole idea of a search warrant, you need the element of the unknown.
BOLDUAN: It would be nice. If and when I'm arrested, I hope that is what they tell me.
I want to talk, Jennifer, about this. It might not be as remarkable for you. For a lay person, this is a remarkable turn of events with the special counsel and what they are arguing in court that the documents that they handed over as part of the discovery process in this legal fight with this Russian company that they were published online and in an attempt to discredit the Mueller investigation. How big of a breach is that?
RODGERS: I think it is remarkable and it is highly unusual. It is uncommon to have a case in criminal court where your alleged criminals are not in the United States. They are in Russia.
BOLDUAN: Right. Right.
(CROSSTALK) RODGERS: So the judge is in a tough spot in a way because, if the defendants were here, there's no question they would be subject to the court's jurisdiction. And if these things were released, the court could take action. They are in a hard spot here because the defendants have a right to defend themselves. They have normally a right to see the discovery. They don't have a right to disclose it in public. But the judge doesn't have a lot of sway over them. I think they are going to end up with a middle ground here because the defendants do need fairly to see some of this. I think they may require them to sign some sort of nondisclosure agreement, even if it is not technically enforceable. At the end of the day, the Justice Department has a choice. If they refuse to come -- you can't try someone without showing them what you have in discovery so --
BOLDUAN: That's the fascinating kind of legal conundrum of counter- intelligence cases that we are talking about here, which is the material that is posted this time, importantly, was not sensitive information. They do have sensitive information that special counsel is trying to prevent from having to turn over as part of the discovery process. That's why we all know about this.
To your point, Jennifer, a defendant has a right to see what they have when they are trying to defend their case. Who has the better argument?
HONIG: Mueller's response is, you want to see the discovery, come here to court, to the Russian entities. Concord has some nerve here because Concord has been getting the discovery, even the non- classified stuff, going to Russians and ended up being manipulated and posted online. The way this whole dispute came about is because Concord said now we want more ability to give the sensitive stuff over to Russians. Mueller's response yesterday, a response, says, no way, you are already sending out the non-sensitive stuff, now you want the sensitive stuff to put Russians in. If they want to get the discovery again them, great, come in and appear in court and defend yourself and you will get the discovery.
[11:10:31] BOLDUAN: Fascinating.
Great to see you guys. Thank you so much. Clearly much more coming up.
Coming up for us, the president's growing anger with the nation's top intelligence officials and one agency leader in particular. Why? That is coming up.
Plus, Democrats and some Republicans who are opposed to the Trump administration lifting sanctions on Russian companies linked to a Russian oligarch. Now Democrats are suggesting one cabinet member, Steven Mnuchin, has a conflict of interest in this whole thing. Details on that ahead.
[11:15:20] BOLDUAN: It was clear from the president's Twitter feed yesterday that someone had touched a nerve. Today, we know who, after the leaders of the country's intelligence agencies publicly contradicted Trump at a Senate hearing on a number of not-so-small national security issues, like ISIS, North Korea and Iran. The president tweeted that they were naive, passive, wrong, and should go back to school, he suggested at one point. Sources tell CNN that the president singled out the director of National Intelligence Dan Coates by name after seeing the coverage. Now the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, is singling Coats out as well, asking him to set the president straight.
Joining me right now is David Sanger, CNN political analyst and national security correspondent for the "New York Times."
It's great to see you, David.
I did wonder --
CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's great to be back with you, Kate.
BOLDUAN: Thanks, man.
I did wonder yesterday who it was that so touched a nerve with the president to set him off after that Senate hearing. The fact that we know it is Coats, in particular, what does it tell you? I wonder why Trump is so angry. He gets the same intelligence, you assume, in his intel briefings every day.
SANGER: He does. Kate, I think there are two issues here. One is Dan Coats -- who actually is sort of the last survivor from the original part of the national security team, everybody else has been fired. He is on his third national security adviser, second secretary of state. I can run through the list. But Dan Coats, a former Senator, former ambassador, has been there throughout. Coats is also the sort of quiet, understated representative of the establishment, who you wouldn't expect over time would do that well with Donald Trump. But he stayed out of the limelight, by and large. The worldwide threat assessment forced him into public. He really had to go out and speak in public. We hadn't heard from him much since last summer when he admitted he hadn't been told much by the president about the meeting by Vladimir Putin at Helsinki.
What did Coats do? He gave the standard Intelligence Community assessment of where we were on North Korea, on Iran, on ISIS. There was nothing in there that was surprising. But the president doesn't view the Intelligence Community as a group to give him objective advice. He wants to hear their public pronouncements in ways that would reinforce the decisions or world view that he has already taken or maintains. And on North Korea, that means it has to be great progress. When Dan Coats gets out there and says what he says, which is they have not taken steps towards de-nuclearization, in fact, quite the opposite, or when he says ISIS still has thousands of fighters in 12 different divisions around the world, it directly contradicts what the president appears to say.
BOLDUAN: When it comes to -- as you perfectly mentioned, Coats is a former Senator. He knows how these hearings go. He knows how it will play out. Of course, they need to give the Senate the facts. Of course, they need to give the president the facts, the assessment as they see it. Do you think Coats was making a choice when he did so publicly in the hearing this week?
SANGER: You know, I thought that the statements in the review were a little more forthright than I had expected them to be. They could have said, in an unclassified version, that while North Korea has suspended its rocket launches and this and that, it's hard to know what is happening behind the material.
BOLDUAN: Yes. OK.
SANGER: They could have fudged it. On ISIS, they could have said they've lost vast amounts of their territory but small elements of them remain. Instead, they were pretty straightforward.
I have had members of the administration come to me since and say, you guys are making more of a division within the administration than is really there. He was providing a straight-on assessment and you guys have to view everything through Donald Trump's eyes. I think it is the reverse of that. I think Donald Trump's reaction --
SANGER: -- to the public stuff was actually more telling than anything that the intelligence agencies told us.
BOLDUAN: In the end, don't take it from us that there was a division. Donald Trump thinks there was a division in what was said publicly by the intel leaders and what he said, obviously, because of his tweet storm from the morning after.
Which, then, I do wonder what you're hearing about this letter from Chuck Schumer sent to Dan Coats. Let me read part of it: "You cannot allow the president's ill-advised and unwarranted comments to stand. I believe it is incumbent on you, Director Wray and Director Haspel, to insist on an immediate meeting with the president to educate him about the facts and raw intelligence underlying the Intelligence Community assessments."
What is your --
[11:20:27] SANGER: Yes. I mean, the fact that Schumer, Senator Schumer released the letter in public tells you everything. They meet with the president at the intelligence briefing every day. They don't need to call for a separate meeting with the president. The president knows what this intelligence says. And probably in private, he is perfectly happy to have the intelligence say what it says. The problem for him comes when it conflicts with his job as first salesman. So I have written stories, CNN has run stories that have said the North Koreans are continuing to build up their nuclear fuel stockpiles even though they are not conducting nuclear tests and not shooting off missiles. The president will denounce those, frequently, as fake news. It does not come and help him a whole lot when his Intelligence Community comes to the exact same conclusion that you just heard on CNN or read on "New York Times" or "Wall Street Journal" or other news organizations that have covered this. These are the underlying facts.
You know, it tells you more about the way the president thinks about intelligence, Kate, because the president could hear that intelligence and say, that is fine, I'm still right to be doing what I'm doing in dealing with Kim Jong-Un directly, and the only way we will get this stopped is if he and I reach a deal together. In other words, he can take on board the intelligence and still ratify his approach.
SANGER: But he doesn't choose to do it that way or view it that way. He views it all as personal criticism.
BOLDUAN: That is a really important point. All the same, they are supposed to be meeting again at the end of -- sometime towards the end of February. Let's see what kind of progress they see what the president would like to tell us before then.
BOLDUAN: Good to see you, David.
SANGER: Thanks. It's great to see you.
BOLDUAN: Thanks. We'll talk more later.
Coming up, the effort to get President Trump's tax returns picking up steam with Democrats in control of the House. How are they going to do that? Can they? One key lawmaker joins us next.
[11:27:09] BOLDUAN: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi talking moments ago about the next deadline to avert a government shutdown and the state of the negotiations.
CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. He joins me now.
Manu, it sounds like Pelosi laid down a bit of a marker.
MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She did. It's been first time that she has done this as the House/Senate negotiations have taken place. She has been careful, up to this point, not to lay down any red lines saying -- I have asked her on multiple occasions if she would be open to any border wall money as the president has demanded in any agreement reached between the House and the Senate. For the first time, she made it very clear, in her view, there will not be any money for the wall in any deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There's not going to be any wall money in the legislation. However, if they have some suggestions about certain localities where technology, some infrastructure, about the ports of entry, that is part of the negotiation. It is not a negotiation for the president. What did he say today? Congress is -- it doesn't matter what Congress does. I knew that he wanted it all to himself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Significant statement there because, going forward, negotiators have been discussing how to resolve this sticking point that, of course, led to the government shutdown for 35 days, the president's demand of $5.7 billion for his border wall. Pelosi, at that point, said no way she will give him any of that money. Today, making it clear that, going forward, also any agreement would not include money for the wall.
So the president himself seems to acknowledge that in his tweet this morning suggesting that they are wasting time discussing it and he may be doing things on his own. We'll see if the president decides to declare a national emergency, administratively, because, legislatively, Kate, it doesn't look like he will get what he wants.
But will they avoid a shutdown? Another question going forward and what agreement they can reach. But no wall money, according to Nancy Pelosi -- Kate?
BOLDUAN: I'm wondering how much more negotiating this committee will be doing with the statement coming from Nancy Pelosi, as lawmakers supposed to be working this out.
It's great to see you, Manu. Thank you so much.
Joining me now is Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett, from Texas.
We have a lot to talk about. But first, I want to get your reaction to what Speaker Pelosi said, the fact that she says there will not be any wall money in the legislation to avoid a government shutdown. Do you think that's the right position to be taking right now?
REP. LLOYD DOGGETT, (D), TEXAS: Well, I agree with her fully. She has been firm and effective. President Trump has always wanted to run our government through executive fiat. Apparently, some sort of fake announcement of an emergency, of a crisis that doesn't exist will be his approach. He has disparaged this negotiating committee since it first began. I hope we can avoid another shutdown and all the pain that it has cost and the economic growth that it has interfered with through the Trump shutdown.