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WAPO: Warren Listed Race as "American Indian" for Texas Bar; Trump Claims "Partisan Investigations" Could Threaten Health of American Economy; Interview with Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA); Subpoena Issue for Matt Whitaker Testimony; Schiff: House Intel Committee to Investigate Trump Finances. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired February 6, 2019 - 11:30   ET



[11:31:56] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Elizabeth Warren hasn't officially announced she's running yet for president but she's already dealing with a revelation that could throw it in jeopardy. This document we'll show you. The "Washington Post" is reporting that Elizabeth Warren listed her race on the document as "American Indian" when registering for the Texas bar back in 1986. This wasn't checking a box as you see there. This was her handwriting in her own words on that form.

Just last week, Senator Warren apologized to the Cherokee Nation for claiming Native American heritage in the past. Now she's being forced to explain and apologize again. Her spokesperson saying this, "As Senator Warren has said, she is not a citizen of any tribe. And only tribes determine tribal citizenship. She is sorry that he was not more mindful of this earlier in her career."

CNN politics reporter and editor-at-large, Chris Cillizza, is joining me now with more on this.

Chris, she's been dealing with this for years. I do wonder why this is coming out now.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: This happened -- the original issue of Native American, she was listed herself or she was listed as Native American in 2012 during her campaign against Scott Brown. It didn't help her campaign, but she won relatively easily, so it didn't disqualify her.

The reason it's coming up now is because she knew she wanted to run for president. Donald Trump had called her Pocahontas on the campaign trail. In October, she released this 5-miute video that's aimed quite clearly, Kate, at saying, here's everything, here's the record, I did this DNA testing, it suggests that I have Native American heritage or blood back six or 10 generations. OK, problem solved. Let's never talk about this again. But problem not solved because the Cherokee Nation comes out and says blood or DNA testing doesn't determine your heritage.

Then we have this latest report, which goes a little bit further in this one regard. Prior, she had been listed in the Harvard Law School directory as Native American. She essentially said throughout, I didn't really know about that, I didn't advocate for that and I gain no benefit from it.


CILLIZZA: The problem with this is this isn't some staffer filled it out or it was a mix up or she didn't know about it. This is her writing -- they haven't disputed it -- her writing on a form in which he fills out her form writing "American Indian in 1986, which disputes the whole "I never really knew, I never really claimed it" as my own ever before. It was just sort of a thing that kind of followed.

BOLDUAN: It's not going away.


BOLDUAN: It's not going away. What does this do to her rollout?

CILLIZZA: It's really problematic. You don't lose the presidency on this. Here's what's important. When you run for president, a big piece of it, a really big piece of it is telling your story.


CILLIZZA: Introducing people. Sure, people in Massachusetts know her, they know her name, but they don't know her story. She was raised in Oklahoma, a lower-middle-class family. It's a pretty remarkable ascent to where she is now. The problem is, when you tell what should be a very compelling story, every story, reporter question, attack from Republicans, will say, is she Native American, she said she was. And it will mean tweets from Donald Trump. Right? So you don't get to tell that story --


[11:35:09] BOLDUAN: I'm curious to hear if she just didn't remember she had done this yet again.


BOLDUAN: I'm curious as to why -- when you're exploring running for president, you need to get everything out there before somebody else does.

CILLIZZA: The thing that makes me think she did know about it or at least knew the "Washington Post" had it, was last week, five days ago, they leaked out that she had called the head of the Cherokee Nation and apologized. We were sort of like, OK. I mean, the video came out in October. The hubbub was around that time. Cherokee Nation not happy about that video? So why now? Then you see this and think, oh, well, maybe this is why now.

BOLDUAN: Another why now. What do other Democratic candidates do about this because, so far, they have played nice and it's all of us against Donald Trump. CILLIZZA: Yes.

BOLDUAN: There's no reason to be, you know -

CILLIZZA: I think they stay on that because, honestly, when you see someone swirling downward as a candidate, particularly, a candidate of your own party, why get involved? She's made enough trouble for herself. I don't know that if you're Kamala Harris or any of these people, if you really need to get involved. Do you really need to say, I wonder why Elizabeth Warren isn't telling the whole truth?


CILLIZZA: And the first debates in June, that will be an issue. This speaks to our point, Kate, this is the first thing that Elizabeth Warren is going to get asked about and her opponents are going to get asked about. It keeps recycling. It keeps recycling. Until you can take it, put in in a box, say I've answered all those questions, there's clarity and the average person believes you, you're going to keep doing it. This just makes it harder to do that.

BOLDUAN: I'm interested to hear if Elizabeth Warren comes out to speak about this. A statement from a spokesperson is one thing --


BOLDUAN: -- but putting herself out there could, I don't know, maybe answer some questions or help.

CILLIZZA: She talked to the "Washington Post" on Tuesday night and said I can't go back and change this. The question is, I've always thought she needs to give some sort of big speech that tries to, in a broad way, explain why she thought what she thought, why she did what she did, why it was wrong and how she's moving on. The problem is she's not even an announced she's a candidate for president yet. She has an exploratory committee. So you can't really give that speech before you're in the race. Then once you're in the race, when do you do it? This is the problem.

BOLDUAN: Complicated.

CILLIZZA: This is the problem.

BOLDUAN: The definition of complicated.

Great to see you, Chris.

CILLIZZA: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, President Trump calling congressional oversight ridiculous, partisan investigations, even saying they're going to hurt the economy. What do Democrats in the new House majority have to say about that? One of the Democratic members of the committees investigating the president joins us, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:42:19] BOLDUAN: President Trump said a lot in his 80-minute speech last night. Did he also unveil a new campaign slogan? Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PREIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If there's going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation.


TRUMP: It just doesn't work that way.


BOLDUAN: The president's clear message to the new Democratic House majority, even before they get started, get off my back. So where do things stand now?

Joining me is Democratic woman from California, Karen Bass. She sits on the House Judiciary Committee.

Congresswoman, thank you for being here.

REP. KAREN BASS, (D), CALIFORNIA: Thanks for having me on.

BOLDUAN: When you heard that last night from President Trump, did you take that as some kind of a threat?

BASS: No, I don't take it as a threat. I just take it as another example of him still not understanding how the democratic process works. He said it just doesn't work this way. No, actually it does. There are three co-equal branches of government and one of our primary responsibilities in the House of Representatives and the Senate is to provide oversight over the administration. This is the new reality he is going to have to get used to. I hope somebody sits him down and explains the democratic process.

BOLDUAN: Maybe put another way, the president might be saying that if a Democratic House majority spends the bulk of their time and committee resources on looking into him and his administration with investigations, then they're not going to have time doing anything else.


BASS: Well, I think that's exactly not true. We are going to do our responsibility. The thing is, one of the reasons why he's confused is because, for the last two years, there has been no oversight over this administration at all. So he's going to have to get used to that reality. I can guarantee you that the Democratic majority has a very robust, pro-active, positive agenda that we are going to fight for over these next few years. So he's going to see that we can walk and chew gum at the same time. BOLDUAN: We're all watching as that plays out.

Speaking of walking and chewing gum at the same time, your committee has oversight over the Justice Department, of course.

BASS: Yes.

BOLDUAN: The acting attorney general, Matt Whittaker, is testifying before your committee on Friday.

BASS: Yes.

BOLDUAN: The chairman, Jerry Nadler, has already said he's having a subpoena drafted though in case Whittaker doesn't show up or claims executive privilege to avoid answering some questions.

BASS: Right.

BOLDUAN: I do wonder, Congresswoman, why draft the subpoena ahead of time? Do you have an indication he's not going to answer questions?

BASS: I think we have to be prepared for that. It's not really clear, because the administration doesn't quite understand the role of the House of Representatives, it's not clear they're going to comply. Secretary Nielsen said she was not going to come before the House Homeland Security Committee. And the chairman, Benny Thompson, had to prepare a subpoena. Before he enacted that subpoena, she did agree to testify. I think it's absolutely right that we need to prepare subpoenas, because we don't know whether this administration plans to cooperate. Hopefully, they will understand the co-equal branches of government before too long and realize it's their obligation to comply when called before the House.

[11:45:34] BOLDUAN: I mean, say he shows up, he still has the subpoena drafted. Do you see a scenario where the chairman hands Whittaker a subpoena in the middle of a hearing?

BASS: No, I don't. I think if Whittaker comes -- for goodness sake, I would hope he comes with the intention of being compliant. I don't know whether the chairman would hand him a subpoena right there at the hearing. But you know what? If that's what he needs to do to get them to understand that they need to comply with the way our government operates, then so be it.

BOLDUAN: What do you most want to hear from the acting attorney general or what is your big question right now?

BASS: Well, I think the main thing is whether or not he is going to try to block the Mueller report, because we don't know whether or not that report will become available before a new attorney general is sworn in. So I think that's one thing. And then also for him to be accountable for all of the statements that he's made basically saying that a president cannot and should not be held accountable. We need to know, OK, that's what you said on CNN, but now that you're in this position, where do you stand.

BOLDUAN: How confident are you that the Mueller report will be made public?

BASS: Well, you know what, I don't know. The question will be whether or not this administration tries to block it from becoming public. I can't imagine that Mueller wouldn't want it to become public, but we will see. We will see if the administration tries to block it and there will be a standoff between the two. I think, at the end of the day, it will become public. It's absolutely critical that it become public. The whole country has been waiting over the last two years, what is going on. And the idea that he would complete the investigation and then it would be squashed, I think there would be a terrible backlash in the country. It would be very unhealthy. So --


BOLDUAN: Even from the perspective of Republicans, Senator Chuck Grassley, his point is the American taxpayers paid for this investigation, they should see what comes out of it. He's with you on that.

BASS: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: You are also the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

BASS: Yes.

BOLDUAN: You have called for the Virginia governor to resign over the racist photo and his reaction to it, quite frankly.

BASS: Yes. That's right.

BOLDUAN: The lieutenant governor -- Virginia politics is a mess right now because the lieutenant governor is facing a sexual assault allegation that he has vehemently denied. The woman, Vanessa Tyson, is working with the same firm that represented Christine Blasey Ford when she took on Brett Kavanaugh.

BASS: Right.

BOLDUAN: I look back, and back then, your campaign put out a statement saying, "I believe you and I'm with you," to Christine Blasey Ford. Should this woman be heard now?

BASS: Absolutely, she should be. I don't believe in a double standard at all. I, first of all, think the governor should step down. That's a separate issue. If the lieutenant governor were to assume the governor's position -- and I don't know what the process is in Virginia -- but I think she absolutely should be heard. Whatever process is appropriate in Virginia should be followed. Maybe he wouldn't be able to take the seat. Maybe it would have to go to the attorney general. I don't know what the specific situation is, but I do not believe in a double standard and I do believe everybody should be held accountable.

BOLDUAN: Congresswoman, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate your time. BASS: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Just in for us, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, he says the now Democratically controlled committee, his committee, is expanding the parameters of their investigation to now go beyond Russia. What does that mean? That's next.


[11:53:31] BOLDUAN: Moments ago, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee says his committee is now expanding the parameters of the committee's investigation beyond Russia.

Let's get right over to CNN's Manu Raju who has the reporting for us.

Manu, what did Adam Schiff say and what does it mean?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He's talking about a broad investigation into financial interests that may be driving the president's decision making. He said this could encompass several House committees and not just the House Intelligence Committee, but others as well, that could go beyond Russia and Saudi Arabia. He made it very clear it will be an expansive and thorough probe.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: We will also be announcing the parameters of our investigation, which go beyond Russia, but in some, will allow us to investigate an incredible allegation that financial interests or other interests are driving decision making of the president or anyone in the administration.

We will be conducting our investigation to make sure that the country is protected.


RAJU: I also tried to ask him about why they delayed that Friday testimony from Michael Cohen, the president's former attorney and former fixer. He would not say anything beyond their statement from this morning, saying it was in the interest of the investigation and he does expect Cohen to be fully cooperative with the committee. But this committee is very active, as you can hear from Adam Schiff saying, this will be a thorough investigation beyond Russia encompassing several committees looking at financial decisions driving this president's own personal interests. So we'll see what that actually encompasses. We expect more details later today from this committee about what exactly they'll be looking into -- Kate?

[11:55:12] BOLDUAN: If the president was hoping for less investigations, the Democratic is responding with a resounding no.

Thanks for coming on, Manu. Appreciate it.

Coming up for us, a brand-new CNN poll out on the race for 2020 and it could answer one of the biggest questions right now: Should Joe Biden get in? That's ahead.