Return to Transcripts main page


Senator Cory Booker Announces Presidential Bid; Trump Administration Suspends Nuclear Treaty With Russia; Trump Calls Wall Negotiations Waste of Time. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired February 1, 2019 - 15:00   ET



SARA MURRAY, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a criminal proceeding and not a public relations campaign. She acknowledged that Roger Stone has his First Amendment right to speak publicly, and said he was even justified in some of the pushback probably about this case.

But she said it is her job to ensure that there's a fair trial, that there's an unbiased jury. And that's why she's considering this gag order. They have until February 8, both sides, to respond with their thoughts on this matter. And she cautioned that there are risks to treating these sort of pretrial proceedings like a book tour.

She said that if Roger Stone is making inconsistent statements publicly, the special counsel's office could use those against him potentially in his trial.

Now, the other thing they were discussing was, what is the timeline of this going to be? And, Brooke, it sounds like this could be going on for quite a while. The government said that they are considering a trial date somewhere in October. That seemed to take the judge by surprise. She said she was hoping for something maybe in the July or August range.

So far, nothing has been set on that. Both sides, though, will be back in court in March.


Evan, I want to focus in on one of the bits that Sara reported from on this judge on the inconsistencies point, that the judge reminded him that any inconsistencies Stone has had when speaking publicly could be introduced as evidence during his trial.

So, Evan, how significant is that?


And, look, we have seen this with some of the -- with some of the other cases that have been handled by the Mueller investigators. Obviously, now we see that the U.S. attorney's office in Washington is now taking the lead in the courtroom here in the Roger Stone case. But we have seen precedent for this where public statements are viewed -- and certainly if they're not in line with other statements that are made, that they could be used to show that someone is trying to deceive, someone is trying to perhaps guide other witnesses, to try to encourage witnesses who may come before this trial, trying to essentially guide them to also lie, to sort of line up their lies with Roger Stone's own alleged lies.

So, I think that's what the judge is trying to make clear to him, that he is essentially endangering himself. Look, there's also the problem here that this judge, I think, realizes that she acted a little bit harshly in the Manafort case.

I think she was very quick to gag in that case and even prohibited the lawyers from speaking. And I think, look, there's Supreme Court precedent that says a defendant has a right to defend himself and has a right to provide -- to produce a strenuous defense.

And so I think the judge has to weigh both of those things. And I think that's what she's perhaps trying to figure out, how to reach a happy medium between what she did in the Manafort case in which she told people just shut up, and this one, where she, I think, is trying to figure out where she can do something short of that.

BALDWIN: Yes. We will find out February 8.

Evan, thank you very much.

PEREZ: Thank you.

BALDWIN: And now we go to the race for the White House.

And Cory Booker and his supporters, the 2020 guessing game is finally over, because today New Jersey's junior senator is adding a new title to a pretty extensive political resume, Democratic presidential candidate.


SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What my neighbors are concerned with and I have heard all around the country is that people in America are losing faith that this nation will work for them.

They're beginning to believe that too many folks are going to get left out or left behind. They're beginning to believe that the forces that are tearing us apart are stronger than the forces that bond us together as a people, as a country.

The people I admire are the people that lead by calling out the best of who we are, and not the worst. So I'm running for president because I believe in us, I believe in these values. I'm going to put them before the American people.

Hey, and if that's not what they want, then I won't be the next president of the United States. I know I can do my job as a senator. I have been showing that. And I also know that I can answer the call of what I believe my country is right now, which is leadership that's going to bring us together, and not try to rip us apart.

I'm grateful that New Jerseyans pulled together to make sure that that possibility is there. But my focus is running for president of the United States, and I will be running hard and going directly to the people, hand to hand, shaking hands, knocking on doors, in many ways, the way I started my career when I was running for city council.

I'm going after the people, and I intend to be the next president of the United States.


BALDWIN: So, there he was moments ago speaking outside his home in Newark, New Jersey, the city where he used to be mayor.

You heard him say he's taking his message directly to the people, and Booker is set to do that in a big way. He's expected to visit Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire all in the next couple of weeks.

And if there is any doubt about just how diverse this year's Democratic presidential field is, I have got a little flashback Friday moment for you. Look at this picture with me. This was the scene in 2015 during the first debate for the then 2016 Democratic candidates.


So, from left to right, Jim Webb, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, and Lincoln Chafee, four white men and one white woman.

And, gee whiz, this was diverse, a woman. But that was then and this is now. And to those who have officially announced or launched exploratory committees for 2020, my, how things have changed.

Michael Smerconish, he's the anchor for CNN's "SMERCONISH," and he's with me now.

Seriously, it's like, holy diversity, Batman. Like, look at what's happened now, finally.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It's such a contrast to 2016, as that picture evidences.

And I think, Brooke, Hillary Clinton in 2016 cleared that field. Nobody at the outset thought that Bernie Sanders would be able to hang in with her as late and as long as he did.

But in contrast, now as we approach 2020, all the Democratic stars are coming out to play. And Joe Biden, perhaps the biggest star of all, is not even in yet. So it's really a remarkable field.

And what's very difficult is to try and determine how many different lanes are there on the Democratic side of the aisle, and who will really be competing with whom? And that's very difficult to predict at this stage.

BALDWIN: We at CNN caught up with Joe Biden earlier in the week, and he was asked about obviously if he's going to jump in. Even he was saying it's still too early, so TBD on the former vice president.

But let's jog back to Senator Cory Booker here, because he was actually just asked. When he was standing there announcing it on the front steps of his house in Newark, he was asked today if he would do away with private health care. And he said no.

So now you have all these Democratic candidates, right, and they're all being asked about Medicare for all. So this is -- this is his stance.


BOOKER: What I'm going to be fighting for is a system that is there for everyone. Now, I signed up and a big believer in Medicare for all, but I believe that because if we give people a quality public option, that we are going to be able to get more people into the system.


BALDWIN: And I'm curious, Michael Smerconish, do you think Senator Booker benefited from watching Senator Harris on CNN Monday night in Iowa? She answered the question, but then she had to kind of clarify her answer the next day. Did he benefit from that, you think?

SMERCONISH: I think he definitely did.

I think they're all benefiting from one another. And I have still not heard the complete follow-up explanation from Senator Harris as to Jake's question pertaining to insurance companies. I think Medicare for all sounds great in the abstract. It probably means different things to different candidates.

And then, of course, you have got Michael Bloomberg there saying, hey, how are we going to pay for this? So there are a lot of competing interests within the Democratic Party this time, a stark contrast to four years ago.

BALDWIN: What about just reminding everyone, when Cory Booker was running for the U.S. Senate, it was Jared and Ivanka Trump who fund- raised for him? And do you think his Trump ties could be problematic?

SMERCONISH: No more so than Donald Trump donating to Hillary Clinton became problematic for him. How quickly we forget that. And I'm sure from the Trump family perspective they will say it's all about business and maintaining relationships with officeholders that we need in order to transact our business.

BALDWIN: What about -- listen, we all want members of Congress, presidents to have the ability to reach across the aisle, the grace to do so. And so Senator Booker and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, I know, have actually really nurtured this close friendship. And this is what the former New Jersey governor actually just said moments ago about his friend Cory Booker's chances.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Cory Booker, talented, smart, articulate, hope that he stays in this campaign to the roots that I saw him establish in New Jersey.

He was someone who was pro-voucher, he was pro-charter school. He was somebody who was tough on crime in the city of Newark. If he stays in that lane and is the articulate, inspirational guy that he is, then I think he's got a legitimate chance to be a serious potential problem for the president in the general election.

I like him. He's a friend. We have been friends for 15 years. He's a good person. And I like Cory Booker.


BALDWIN: So, Michael, glowing words from this Republican.

But he also warned that Booker could go wacky left. Do you think this relationship, though, could help or hurt Senator Booker with Democrats?

SMERCONISH: I can't help -- I can't help but watch the footage and think of the hug, although Governor Christie now says it wasn't a hug. I think that's what he says in his new book.

But I'm referring, of course, to when President Obama in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy comes in New Jersey, and has that -- has that very warm moment with Chris Christie.


And it was at a critical juncture, in the 11th hour of that campaign. And Republicans were like, hey, why are you so close to Barack Obama at this juncture?

So it gets complicated, Brooke.


And then, lastly, I know you weren't really interested in talking about Senator Elizabeth Warren, fellow 2020 contender. The Cherokee Nation says she has apologized for taking a DNA test to confirm her Native American heritage. The tribe says that it is encouraged by her actions and it hopes the slurs and mocking will stop.

I mean, when will this chapter for her end? Or will Trump make sure it never does?

SMERCONISH: Trump will try to make sure that it never does. It should have ended, in my opinion, with an expose by "The Boston

Globe" that definitively seemed to answer the question of whether she played that card in order to get hired at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Harvard Law School.

And it was a really great piece of work. She cooperated with it. The faculty members cooperated in interviews. All of those documents pertaining to her hiring were revealed and published. And what they suggested, what they evidence was, that although she's held herself out as a Native American, as a Native American faculty member, she did not do so in order to get hired.

Now, it required a 20-minute read-in to get to that conclusion. And in the sound bite world in which we live, it's very hard to convey that. It's much easier for a nickname, a moniker, to stick to her. But I'm an alumnus of that law school. I was very curious to know, when she got hired, was she hired because they wanted a Native American faculty member?

And the answer, according to "The Globe," was no. She's had a really hard time in communicating that.

BALDWIN: Michael Smerconish, we can't wait to watch you tomorrow morning.

As always, a pleasure.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Watch Michael Smerconish 9:00 a.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Thank you.

Coming up next: President Trump says there is a good chance he will declare a national emergency in order to receive the money he wants for his border wall -- why he's calling the Capitol Hill negotiations a -- quote -- "waste of time."

Plus, an alarming assessment just in from the Pentagon about what could happen if the U.S. pulls completely out of Syria, and the chances that ISIS could regain ground.

And, later, the "Empire" star who says he was a victim of a hate crime on the streets of Chicago is speaking out for the very first time -- what Jussie Smollett wants to say to people who have doubted him.



BALDWIN: We just heard from President Trump about what to expect if bipartisan talks, these negotiations don't come up with the money for his border wall.

This is what the president said.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will be looking at a national emergency, because I don't think anything's going to happen. I think the Democrats don't want border security.

I think there's a good chance that we will have to do that. But we will at the same time be building regardless. We're building wall and we're building a lot of wall. But I could do it a lot faster the other way.

QUESTION: Are you saying that you will -- that we should be prepared for you to announce at the State of the Union what you are going to do?

TRUMP: Well, I'm saying listen closely to the State of the Union. I think you will find it very exciting.


BALDWIN: Trump is signaling that he could make a decision at the State of the Union next week, which is before negotiations are even finished, which reiterate what he told "The New York Times" when he called all these negotiations, these bipartisan talks, a -- quote -- "waste of time."

Jackie Alemany is an anchor with "The Washington Post"'s "Power Up."

And almost, listening to him, it's like, tune into the next episode, right, like, stay tuned to my State of the Union, when I'll make X announcement.

And when he talks about this declaration, a good chance, do you think it's basically a foregone conclusion?

JACKIE ALEMANY, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, we never know with the president.


ALEMANY: But what has matriculated in the past year -- the past day -- sorry -- January really felt like the longest year ever.

BALDWIN: I know. I know. It's a blur. It's a blur.

ALEMANY: Oh, my goodness.

But what really we saw in the last day was this red line being drawn at least privately amongst Republicans. I talked to officials inside the White House and senior officials on the Hill who said that the one thing that their members are not in favor of, even after bearing with the president for the longest shutdown in history, is declaring a national emergency.

And that's just because of the unprecedented executive power that it extends to. And I think members and staffers and officials in the White House are really worried that the this sets the stage for Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell-esque debate going forward, in that when there is a mass shooting, for example, the president, a future Democratic president, for example, is able to say, hey, this is national emergency, I'm going to make some sweeping declaration as it relates to guns, or perhaps for Medicare.

And so there is a lot of concern here. And I think the president's going to see a lot of backlash, even from his far right flank, if he does declare a national emergency.

BALDWIN: All right, so concern noted.

Also, what I find noteworthy is the evolution of semantics, because the president, when you look at the word wall, right, so he went from, I want a concrete wall, to fencing, to steel slats, to now he's back with talking about this word wall.

And I'm curious, Jackie, why you think he's doubling down on wall? And do you think he's sort of rooting for this bipartisan group to fail?

ALEMANY: Yes, I mean, the president obviously has really embraced the fatalism here over the past few days.


My favorite term for the wall, by the way, is peaches, which he floated two weeks ago.

BALDWIN: Peaches. Amazing.

ALEMANY: But I -- it's unclear why -- I do -- I think this is a rhetoric trick that the president is resorting to.

This is a message to his base that he's not going to accept anything other than a wall, so that when he does potentially accept a smaller amount of funding, if that does happen from Democrats, to come to a deal, for perhaps something lower than $5.7 billion, he's able to say that it is a wall, even though Democrats are saying, like, that this is actually just border security.

A lot of the hurdles here really is a matter of reconciling the rhetoric from both sides, fencing vs. wall vs. steel slats. And the president is right about one thing. These are just political games that are being played.

BALDWIN: Yes, at the cost of hundreds of thousands of livelihoods.


BALDWIN: And then think about the contractors who aren't even getting paid back.

ALEMANY: Exactly.

BALDWIN: There was great news for this White House, though, in those January jobs numbers, way better than expected, 304,000 jobs added. So this has to be a solid shot in the arm in this post-Trump-shutdown era.

ALEMANY: Yes. And this was some unexpectedly good news for the president. In the midst of a trade war with China, the longest government shutdown, jobs are up. This was a blockbuster number this morning and it's something that he touted on Twitter, rightly so.

However, the jobs numbers do indicate some other problems that still remain, which is that wage growth is still the lowest it's been since the great recession, 2009. The average U.S. worker hasn't seen an increase in their wages. That is a really big problem.

And then there are some economists who do think that this number, this 304,000 number, is actually inflated due to the amount of part-time jobs that workers during the government shutdown had to take in order to make ends meet while they weren't getting paid for a month.

BALDWIN: Solid reaction in the markets from the positive news today.

Jackie Alemany, good to see you. Thank you very much.

ALEMANY: Thanks, Brooke.

BALDWIN: There are new fears of an arms race after the U.S. suspends its nuclear treaty with Russia.

Also, another surreal moment, the president claiming his intelligence chiefs were misquoted, even though they weren't.



BALDWIN: Breaking news: U.S. military and intelligence officials believe ISIS could reemerge and successfully regain some ground in Syria in six months to a year, if the U.S. doesn't actually keep up military pressure.

That's according to an official familiar with the latest assessment -- latest assessment. Easy for me to say.

President Trump has declared ISIS defeated in Syria. And, right now, U.S. troops are set to be pulled out from Syria over the next few months.

Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a CNN global affairs analyst.

And so, Max Boot, is this alarming to you? Is this something that, despite what the president continues to say about ISIS being defeated, might he actually take note of it?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, we should take note of it, Brooke. And it is alarming.

And this is very consistent with what the intelligence community said in their worldwide threat assessment, which was released on Tuesday, which said that Islamic State still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria and around the world, and it will -- quote -- "exploit any reduction in counterterrorism pressure to strengthen its clandestine presence and accelerate rebuilding key capabilities."

And, obviously, President Trump is intent on reducing the counterterrorism pressure, because he wants all the U.S. troops out of Syria. This is why leaders in the Pentagon are very opposed to doing this, because they know that Islamic State is still a threat. It has not been eradicated. It still has thousands and even tens of thousands of fighters.

BALDWIN: Yes. So this is all coming out. We talked to Barbara Starr at the Pentagon on this forthcoming report. So that's on ISIS in Syria.

I really wanted to ask you too about this INF Treaty and how the U.S. is officially suspending the nuclear arms treaty with Russia.

BOOT: Right.

BALDWIN: People are worried that this could create a new arms race, but you, who have been highly critical of Trump, wrote this opinion piece in "The Washington Post" last October, where you said he could actually get it right on this.

BOOT: Yes.

BALDWIN: Do you still stand by that?

BOOT: I still do.

I mean, I'm very critical of President Trump on a whole range of things. But, on this one, I think he got it basically right. He is not making up the fact that Russia is cheating. He makes up a lot of things. But he is not making this up.

I mean, the Obama administration itself called out Russia in 2014. They are building a missile called the SSC-8, an intermediate-range missile, which is in violation of the INF Treaty. And if we're serious about the treaty, either the Russians have to get into compliance, or we have to pull out.

There's also the issue of China, which is building a lot of intermediate-range missiles. And I think we need to counter the Chinese military buildup.

BALDWIN: Do you think that this might be -- it's six months. Do you think this might be a way to get Russia to blink?

BOOT: It could be. It could signal that we are serious about pulling out. And if they want to stay in the treaty, they have to shape up.


BOOT: But it's not clear they do want to stay in the treaty, because Russia has always chafed against the treaty limits. And there's -- the Russian military in particular has been eager to abrogate those limitations.

So it's not clear what they're going to do.

BALDWIN: What about the message to the world?

These are all the agreements -- we're going to throw it up on the screen -- agreements that Trump has -- has pulled out of.

BOOT: Right. Right.

BALDWIN: And so Iran's foreign minister today said that this shows -- quote -- "Any deal with the U.S. government is not worth the ink, even treaties ratified by Congress."